By Robert D. Gosselin
When first arriving at The Fitchburg Art Museum, the first things you notice are the charming ivy covered brick walls of the buildings, and the pleasant surprise of a quaint and convenient cobblestone parking lot, but after the disarmingly simple beauty of the grounds the Fitchburg Art Museum, at 25 Merriam Parkway, quickly reveals its true identity; a remarkable and enjoyable oasis of unexpected and diverse artistic expression.
When you approach the front desk the museum staff is very pleasant, courteous, and professional, and after picking up your map it’s time to start exploring.
You quickly learn there is a lot to see, since inside the museum there are paintings and sculptures that span 5000 years of artistic history. We started our journey in the American and European Landscape and Still Life Gallery, a delightful collection of colorful and lively paintings, and we were not disappointed.
One painting, Ridgway Knight’s “Girl in Pumpkin Patch”, is a gentle and pastoral fall scene, and being October it truly captured the feeling of the season.
“Monadnock Afternoon”, by Rockwell Kent, is a stirring and masterful portrayal of a familiar New England icon. His bold use of brown, and the amazing blues of the rushing river in the foreground, breathes a tremendous amount of life into the canvas. It’s a magnificent painting, and anyone who appreciates this spectacular mountain will be completely captivated by Kent’s breathtaking landscape.
Just beyond this colorful room is a small, but fascinating, collection of African art. Tribal masks stare out from glass cases, and ornately carved wooden head crests line the walls. A number of hand crafted power figures stand guard on their shelves, rounding out this fine collection.
Perhaps the most entertaining, and educational, part of the museum is the Egyptian Art Gallery. You enter the gallery through a long corridor, brightly illustrated with wonderful reproductions from an ancient Egyptian tomb. A simple, yet fascinating, multi-media presentation takes you step by step through the Egyptian mythology of death, and you walk alongside a departed soul on its compelling journey to the afterlife.
Inside this gallery you will also find a spellbinding diorama portraying the Egyptian process of mummification. You will quickly get lost in the morbid, yet interesting, step by step explanation of this intriguing Egyptian custom. Of course there are some actual mummies in the collection. The favorite of these being a mummified cat, still tightly bound in layers of cloth.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of our visit to the museum were the works of Fitchburg artist Eleanor Norcross, 1854-1923. Of particular interest are her amazing portraits, and the first worth mentioning is her “Portrait of Mrs. E.P. Miller”, not just for her spectacular use of color in the painting, but also for its subject matter, who stares out at you from the canvas, nonchalantly leaning on a large fireplace. Truly an unforgettable portrait.
“Woman in a Paris Garden,” also by Norcross, is bursting with all the vibrant colors of spring, and it’s lovely, charming and captivating.
Another brilliant Norcross painting, “My Studio,” is a quaint, subtle and intimate look at the artist’s Paris studio. The painting also includes a sentimental image of the artist’s father, and this charming piece was a fitting finale to our wonderful afternoon at the museum.
The Fitchburg Art Museum is a diverse, comprehensive and magnificent collection of many outstanding pieces of art, and it should be high on your list of local places to visit. The galleries are spacious, well thought out and captivating, and a day at this little gem of a museum is well worth your time.
The Museum is also very affordable. Admission is free for all Fitchburg State University students. If you bring a guest it’s $7 for adults, and $5 for students and seniors.
They are open Wednesday through Friday noon – 4 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. For more information about pricing, and special exhibits, visit their website at http://www.fitchburgartmuseum.org.
The entire museum is also handicap accessible.
The Fitchburg Art Museum is located at 25 Merriam Parkway, Fitchburg, Mass., 01420. Or if you want to contact them by phone they can be reached at (978) 345-4207.