Kirkland Museum’s dot paintings mesmerize
Visit a passionate showcase of Colorado art
Published: Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, September 19, 2012 01:09
Hugh Grant, director of Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art, would tell you that there’s no other museum quite like it in the United States. The salon-style presentation, which features Colorado artists’ paintings, decorative art, and furniture, creates the illusion that you’re walking through an artsy packrat’s home. “The Kirkland,” as it is affectionately called, is also a living part of CU Denver’s early history.
The museum is the oldest commercial art building in Denver, itself a piece of history worth conserving. In its early days, the original studio was a seedling of the Denver Art Museum, and became Henry Read’s School of Art in the early 1900s. The original building’s outside walls can be seen preserved inside the current larger Kirkland Museum.
Vance Kirkland was a prominent Colorado artist as well as talented professor and administrator. In 1932, he left the University of Denver to open the Kirkland School of Art in the old Read’s building. Beginning in 1933, it was accredited by the University of Colorado Denver Extension.
The museum is home to the works of many well-known artists. Among these are a one-of-a-kind furniture set designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, Robert Mangold’s renowned moving sculptures, and pieces by Gio Ponti, who designed the 1971 Denver Art Museum building. The Kirkland boasts the only Anne Van Briggle lamp ever found, and the only Viktor Schreckengost Jazz Plate available for public view.
From floor to ceiling, each room of the Kirkland is stocked with a charming collection of over 3,500 pieces of decorative art from 1880 to 1980. Arts & Crafts, Art Nouveau, Glasgow Style, De Stijl, Bauhaus, Art Deco, Modern, and Pop art styles are all represented.
The museum is filled with arrangements of furniture demonstrating different artistic eras, and numerous glass cases hold vases, glasses, and hundreds more pieces of functional art.
Prominent artists and scholars are impressed by the wide range of styles and quality created by Colorado artists of the time. If not for the Kirkland, it’s likely Colorado’s contribution to international artistic movements would be overlooked.
“If you are a fan of the modern design movement, you will love the Kirkland Museum’s vast collection of well-known and lesser known modern classics. The passion of this salon style collection is evident. It is much more intimate and dense than the typical sterile museum design collection,” said Michael McCoy, an international product designer.
The Kirkland also features a retrospective of Vance Kirkland, including his original studio, which contains a contraption invented by the artist that allowed him to lie suspended in mid-air above the canvas. Visitors can stand in the very same room where Kirkland created his famous dot oil paintings, explosions of color adorned with tens of thousands of tiny dots. The visual effect is truly mesmerizing, and the Kirkland has many examples of the unique paintings throughout its rooms—they are sure to delight with their sheer size and simplistic beauty.
Furniture, paintings, and decorative art of the 20th century all have a place in the enchanting rooms of the Kirkland Museum. Don’t miss out on the truly amazing contributions our own Colorado artists have made to international art history.