In the eyes of most people, the State Museum enjoys its well deserved reputation as an exhibiting institution primarily together with its fine series of educational programs like "Music at the Mint" or lectures complementing current exhibitions. Scholarly publications have been more rare albeit by no means totally absent. But perhaps unknown to the public, the Museum has been regularly loaning artifacts from our collections to other places across the State and literally around the world.
Also, the collecting practices of state museums often differ from that of other museums. Rather than focusing on an individual artist or a particular time period or region, we collect much more broadly in keeping with our statewide mission. What has been made in Louisiana or prominently used in state is what we are after regardless of medium. Quality, while obviously important, is not the sole criteria in collecting. A Mardi Gras doubloon may be just as important to us as a piece of labeled furniture with Louisiana provenance. It is more often the scope of our collection that is important as the State Museum.
Fortunately, we have been able to combine quality with quantity in our painting collection. Amassed exclusively during the 20th century, the State Museum has acquired more than 2000 paintings, the most important of which are thoroughly identified in this first ever guide. Curator of Visual Arts Claudia Kheel-Cox has labored diligently to present the best of our collection with useful information about both the artist and the subject. Thanks to a grant from the Institute of Museum Services, Owen Murphy has photographed more than 175 of the best and Jeff Rubin has made both the text and the images available to all on-line. Tamra Carboni, the State Museum’s indispensable person, has overseen all that has gone into this publication and all that led up to it, including the exhibition "Captured on Canvas" at the Presbytere.
This is the first of a series of guides to the collections of the Louisiana State Museum, which will be followed by one on the map collection. Others will appear until our individual collections are more readily accessible to all. We believe that the on-line format is both less expensive and more available to those who will best benefit from this information. We welcome any and all comments regarding these publications.
The Louisiana State Museum is the repository of an important collection of southern regional American art. In keeping with the Museum’s mission statement, the collection primarily consists of paintings by artists who worked in Louisiana from colonization through the twentieth century. During the Museum’s early years, Dr. Isaac Monroe Cline, United States Weather Service meteorologist, art collector, and honorary curator at the Louisiana State Museum, was instrumental in shaping the direction of the painting collection. Numerous nineteenth-century portraits were acquired as a result of Dr. Cline’s legendary taste and vision, among them the well-known self-portrait of free person of color Julien Hudson. Other notable areas of the collection encompass marine and early twentieth-century paintings.