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The Chrysler Museum, Norfolk, Virginia


If you throw 4 or 5 pieces of art into a room and call it a museum I will probably stop in and see it. So, on my one day in Norfolk VA, I decided to visit the Chrysler Museum of Art. It is a lot more than just 5 pieces of art, and well worth the trip.

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The Chrysler Museum was founded by Walter Chrysler Jr., the son of the car magnate. In 1971 he merged his collection with that of the Norfolk Museum of the Arts and Sciences. He chose Norfolk because it was the hometown of his wife, Jean Esther. The museum sits at the head of The Hague, an inlet that serves as the border to the Ghent District, an area of historic homes, mostly built between 1890 and 1902. The main building opened in the 1920’s and was renovated and expanded, reopening in 2014.


The permanent collection of the Chrysler is an excellent survey of art history, ranging from Greek/Roman statuary to contemporary art, with excellent examples from the entire history. There are also collections of Asian, Egyptian and African art.

 chrysler 08Art of Life in America by Thomas Hart Benton (top) and American Beauty by Walt Kuhn

What is most impressive to me is the organization of the display of the art-work and the thought that has gone into the writing of labels throughout the museum. Galleries are not just organized by genre or era, but also with thought to connecting historical themes. Landscapes or portraits of a given era, if not the same genre, are displayed together in the same gallery. What I really loved were the labels written for almost every piece. In addition to the name of the work and artist, they included additional information about the style, genre or history of the piece. There are also explanatory videos placed near some pieces that the curatorial staff feel need extra information.

 chrysler 06The Museum's Entrance Hall

chrysler 11Soldiers Wives Waving Goodbye by Kathe Kollwitz

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MacPherson and MacDonald by Gari Melchors

This care in arrangement and labeling is just as evident in the two special exhibits at the museum. Highest Heavens is a collection of European style art from the Spanish and Portuguese colonies in the Americas from the 16th and 17th centuries. Art of the Revolution consists of photo and posters from China created during the 1960’s and 70’s. In both displays the works are organized by themes, Angels or The Virgin Mary in Highest Heavens; military or cultural posters in Art of the Revolution. Here, again, the labels are fully explanatory, and in Highest Heaven they are in both English and Spanish.

 chrysler 05Ife by Elizabeth Catlett

Beauty - inspired by Ife by Elizabeth Catlett

There you lay


Ebony skin

Like the myth of Africa


You smile slyly

Inviting me in

Knowing that the reality

Is so much deeper than myth



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