The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art is known primarily for its art nouveau connection and for being the home of the most comprehensive collection of the works of Louis Comfort Tiffany. It also boasts a large collection of American Art Pottery and American paintings.
The current museum building opened at its location in 1995. However, the first museum building was located at Rollins College and opened in 1942. Jeannette Genius McKean founded the museum and dedicated it to her grandfather, Charles Hosmer Morse, who was a well-known industrialist from Chicago. Jeannette's husband, Hugh McKean, was the first director of the museum. The scope and quality of the collections reflect the couple's interests, personalities, and ideals. Both of their families had begun collecting pieces since around the 1820s. Since then, they have continued to grow it into an impressive collection of American art for public appreciation.
Jeannette organized the first exhibition of Louis Comfort Tiffany's work at the original museum in 1955, or rather, the first exhibition since the artist's own showings. Two years later, the McKean's learned that Tiffany's Laurelton Hall estate had burned down, and so they immediately went to work buying what remained to save the estate. Their acquisitions included parts of Tiffany's 1893 chapel for the World's Columbian Exposition. The museum also has the largest collection of items from Tiffany's estate, which is on display in a 12,000 square-foot wing dedicated to the estate. In 1978 the museum opened at its second location in Winter Park, and later in 1995, it opened at the current location.
The Tiffany collection continues to serve as the centerpiece of the Morse Museum. The exhibition displays the full spectrum of Tiffany's work and includes pieces of every medium the artist explored. In addition to award-winning glass windows, it includes paintings, pottery, jewelry, watercolors, furniture, and his Favrile blown glass. The piece of the chapel they had acquired after the estated was ruined was fully reassembled and opened in April 1999 - on display to the public for the first time in over 100 years.
In addition to the work of Louis Comfort Tiffany, the Morse Museum has a variety of works from other well-known artists. They have lead-glass windows by Louis Sullivan, Frank Lloyd Wright, René Lalique, and Carl Fabergé.
Its collection of American Art Pottery is also quite extensive, with over 800 pieces of 19th-century work including 300 Rookwood pieces. One can also view plenty of paintings and prints by influential American artists including George Inness, Grant Wood, and Edward Hopper.
Cover image courtesy of Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art, Winter Park, FL.