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Joy of Museums

Museums, Art Galleries and Historical Sites

Masterpieces of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Masterpieces of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

The museum’s largest collections include Italian Renaissance painting, French Impressionism, photography, American and European decorative arts, African and pre-Columbian gold, American art, and post-1945 European and American painting and sculpture. Other collections include African-American art and Texas painting, modern and contemporary Latin American art, Asian art, and Islamic art.

The Masterpieces of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston include:

  • “Portrait of an Old Woman” by Hans Memling
    • “Portrait of an Old Woman” by Hans Memling portrays an old woman’s face with a headdress which dominates the painting. Memling has created a dramatic contrast between her cream headdress and the black background. The panel we see today has been cut down in size given its tight framing, however, the subtle treatment of skin tones, after 500 years of historical handling demonstrates Memling’s skills and restoration efforts.
  • “The Entrance to the Grand Canal, Venice” by Canaletto
    • “The Entrance to the Grand Canal, Venice” by Canaletto portrays the Rococo landscape of the entrance to the Grand Canal, Venice. The composition is a veduta, a word derived from the Italian for “view”, which means a highly detailed, large-scale painting of a cityscape or some other vista. This Canaletto is a typical example of the ‘vedute paintings’ popular with Grand Tour travellers of the 11700sas a visual record of their travels. Canaletto was one of the more famous painters of city views or vedute, especially of Venice. From 1746 to 1756 he worked in England where he created many paintings of the sights of London. He was highly successful in England and became famous thanks to the British merchant and connoisseur Joseph Smith who sold his large collection of Canaletto’s paintings to King George III in 1762. Canaletto’s paintings became highly prized as during the 18th century European monarchs vied for his grandest pictures.
  • “The Elder Sister” by William-Adolphe Bouguereau
    • “The Elder Sister” by William-Adolphe Bouguereau portrays a young girl, “the elder sister”, sitting on a rock and holding a sleeping baby, “the younger brother”, on her lap, with a rural landscape behind them. The girl is looking directly at the viewer, and the structured composition, with the positioning of the legs and arms of the children, demonstrate Bouguereau’s academic painting style. Bouguereau’s daughter Henriette and son Paul served as models. There is also another painting by Bouguereau called “The Elder Sister” at the Brooklyn Museum.
  • “The Orange Trees” by Gustave Caillebotte
    • “The Orange Trees” by Gustave Caillebotte portrays Caillebotte’s brother Martial reading in the shade of the orange trees. Their cousin, Zoé, is standing at one of the garden planters, which contain the trees. The poses of both suggest that they are each enjoying the afternoon quietly with their private thoughts. The sunlight illuminates a circular flower bed surrounded by a curving path, at the edge of which is a sleeping dog.

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Photo Credit: By Judson Dunn from Houston, USA [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons