Arts and Culture

The Brooklyn Museum: Five Must-See Pieces of Art

Filed Under: New York

The Brooklyn Museum houses over a million and a half pieces of art -- making it 1 of the country's largest museums. Numbers like that can be just a bit overwhelming -- so here are 5 must-see pieces at 1 of New York's finest museums. Trust us, it's worth getting on the subway.

The Dinner Party, 1975-1979
Judy Chicago
"
The Dinner Party," an icon of 1970s feminist art is the centerpiece of The Brooklyn Museum's collection. The piece consists of 39 place settings each commemorating an important woman in history. Places are set for Susan B. Anthony, Emily Dickinson and Virginia Woolf, and the table itself sits on a pedestal on which the names of 999 other famous women in history are written.

"The Dinner Party" took the art world by storm because each place setting contains what the artist called a butterfly, an ornament obviously based on the female genitalia. When the piece was unveiled in 1979 at the Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco, the controversy began. While certain museums refused to exhibit "The Dinner Party," it did tour the globe for 20 years until finding its permanent home here at the Brooklyn Museum.

Called "shock art," this piece certainly stirred emotions and stereotypes, but Chicago hoped that shocking people could thrust women's issues to the forefront of society.

Monument to the Burghers of Calais, 1884
Auguste Rodin
This work of art is actually in the downstairs lobby where you buy your tickets. In 1896, the city of Calais commissioned Rodin to create a sculpture that would pay tribute to the city's greatest heroes. Rodin chose to tell the city's story during the 100 Years War.

In 1347, British troops attacked France, surrounding the city of Calais. For 11 months, the citizens lived on severely limited food and water. Calais's leaders, a group of brave young men, volunteered their lives in exchange for the freedom of the city. King Edward III agreed, but forced the young martyrs to approach him on foot with nooses already around their necks.

Rodin captures this moment, depicting the young men's inner turmoil with grotesque physical details. At the unveiling, the citizens of Calais were upset that the statue seemed to communicate tragedy rather than heroics.

Eventually, the French came to embrace Rodin's vision and today, the statues stand in the Brooklyn museum as a reminder of the sacrifice made for their freedom.

Mt. Rosalie, 1866
Albert Bierstadt
In 1866, Bierstadt captured the American frenzy of manifest destiny in "Mt. Rosalie." Bierstadt traveled across the country with his friend, writer Buddy Fitz Hugh Ludlow. Bierstadt sketched while Ludlow wrote of their adventures, creating a buzz about the painting.

Named after Ludlow's wife, Rosalie, the painting's fictitious primary peak, is a composite version of the Rockies based on Bierstadt's many sketches. Unlike "The Burghers of Calais," "Mt. Rosalie" was revealed to an adoring public. It was an instant sensation that people literally lined the streets to view.

"Mt. Rosalie" sold for more than $20,000 -- the highest price ever paid for a work of art by a living American artist. Bierstadt used the money to build a mansion for he and his new wife -- Mrs. Rosalie Bierstadt.

The Rockefeller Room
This exhibit doesn't adorn the museum's walls, but instead exists within 4 of its own. "The Rockefeller Room" was once part of a New York City brownstone built in the 1860s and originally owned by real-estate tycoon Arabella Worsham. The property, located at 4 West 54th St. in Manhattan, featured this smoking room that Arabella completely redecorated.

The opulent room is decorated in a style known as the Aesthetic Movement. Within the room's 4 corners are influences from all over the globe, including the Renaissance revival cabinetry and the neoclassical ceilings.

Belle's beautifully stylish home grabbed the attention of America's first billionaire, John D. Rockefeller, and in 1884 he purchased the house from Ms. Worsham. He loved Belle's smoking room so much that he left her room untouched, and when Rockefeller died in 1937, the room was saved from demolition and given to The Brooklyn Museum.

The original location of the brownstone is now home to the Museum of Modern Art's sculpture garden.

Ram's Head White Hollyhock-Hills, 1935
Georgia O'Keefe
In the 1920s, O'Keefe was well-known for her paintings of flowers and New York settings. Her unique style intoxicated the art world and her career took off. O'Keefe was also married to fellow artist and gallery owner, Alfred Stieglitz, who encouraged her to create and exhibit new works every year.

The pressure of her success began to take its toll on O'Keefe, and in 1933 she suffered a nervous breakdown and was unable to paint. She fled New York City -- and her pressuring husband -- heading west to find peace of mind and inspiration.

She settled at Ghost Ranch in New Mexico and here she stumbled on a new subject for her art: bones. The ram's head featured in this piece is 1 that she found in New Mexico and O'Keefe proved that an artist's rendering of bones could be just as beautiful and stirring as flowers.

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