The historic Walker Art Building (1894), designed by Charles Follen McKim of McKim, Mead and White, houses the Bowdoin College Museum of Art. The museum recently underwent a $20.8 million renovation and expansion that included the construction of a dramatic glass and bronze entry pavilion.
Bowdoin College Museum of Art
The Bowdoin College Museum of Art houses a collection that is among the oldest and most significant of any college or university in the United States. Notable collections comprise ancient art, including five large ninth-century BCE Assyrian reliefs; Old Master prints and drawings; Renaissance paintings; American colonial and federal portraits by Stuart, Copley, Feke, and others; nineteenth- and twentieth-century American art, including works by Heade, Eakins, Cassatt, Gorky, Wyeth, Sloan, Kent, and Homer; and modern and contemporary prints, drawings, and photographs.
Dedicated in 1894, the museum’s landmark Walker Art Building was designed by Charles Follen McKim of McKim, Mead and White, who also designed the Boston Public Library, the Brooklyn Museum, and the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York, among many important cultural commissions. In 2007 a $20.8 million expansion and renovation integrated the original Beaux-Arts features with a dramatic free-standing entry pavilion, a glass curtain wall, and improvements such as climate control; expanded exhibition, art handling, and art storage spaces; and a dedicated teaching gallery and classroom.
Above all, the museum is a teaching facility, with the core of its mission to keep its rich collections within immediate reach of Bowdoin students, faculty, scholars, and art lovers. Its emphasis on the study of original objects as part of the Bowdoin curriculum makes the museum the ultimate cross-disciplinary and multicultural enterprise. Classes from sociology to government to environmental studies make use of the prints, photographs, and other works in the collections.
James Bowdoin III, founder of the College, gave the first donations of art to the College in 1811.
The sisters Harriet Sarah and Mary Sophia Walker gave the museum building in honor of their uncle, Theophilus Wheeler Walker, and stipulated that the building be used exclusively for art. The Walker sisters were in some ways feminists; they grew up on a working farm, which may partially explain their independent manner and strength of mind. They completely funded and controlled the commission for the Walker Art Building and selected the architect.
In addition to its long-term installations, the Museum organizes several temporary exhibitions each year, both drawn from its own holdings and bringing in work borrowed from all over the world. Lectures, gallery talks and discussions, concerts, and receptions are held regularly throughout the year.
Two large lion sculptures, modeled after those in the Loggia dei Lanzi in Florence, Italy, stand guard on either side of terrace and stairs on the Quad side of the building.