NYC Explorer: Must SEE Art at The MET

With over 2 million square feet of space and over 5,000 years of art, architecture and sculpture – The Metropolitan Museum of ART is wonderland for art lovers.

In our last edition, we discussed Quick Tips for visiting The MET…with such a large collection of art it takes days (and really years) to fully see and appreciate all the museum has to offer.

*Pro tip: check ahead before visiting if you want to see a specific painting. You can check on The Met website to see if it is on view (and the wing). The collection is so large that the museum does trade out pieces (from storage to open viewing from time to time).

And while a list of ‘Must See ART at The MET’ is never adequate, I did want to list a few of my highlights that are worthy of view during your trip to The MET.

We’ll start with a SECRET:

If you want to see ‘off view’ art that is in storage – I definitely recommend the Henry R. Luce Wing (near the American Wing). This often overlooked collection gives you a glimpse into art that is not currently on view in the main galleries.

During our visit in February 2023, we spent an hour just in this gallery (by ourselves as many forgo this extraordinary wing) – and saw ‘in storage’ art by Twachtman, Homer, Cassatt and more.

Egyptian Temple of Dendur

Roman and Greek Art:

It is all amazing, but one statue continues to haunt me…

Roman Marble Statue

Medieval and Renaissance Highlights

Botticelli’s St. Jerome

  • Master of The Renaissance, Botticelli’s sense of color and space is unrivaled

Duccio – Madonna and Child…Late Medieval/Early Renaissance master, unfortunately not on view in 2023 – but a MUST-SEE when you can see it. This was the most expensive acquistion The MET made in early 2000s.

The American Wing highlights:

Washington Crossing the Delaware by Emanuel Leutze

Heart of the Andes by Frederic Edwin Church

When it toured the US in the 1850s it shattered records for visitation. Mark Twain said of the painting…”I have just returned from a visit to the most wonderfully beautiful painting which this city has ever seen—Church’s ‘Heart of the Andes’ … I have seen it several times, but it is always a new picture—totally new—you seem to see nothing the second time which you saw the first. We took the opera glass, and examined its beauties minutely, for the naked eye cannot discern the little wayside flowers, and soft shadows and patches of sunshine, and half-hidden bunches of grass and jets of water which form some of its most enchanting features. There is no slurring of perspective effect about it—the most distant—the minutest object in it has a marked and distinct personality—so that you may count the very leaves on the trees. When you first see the tame, ordinary-looking picture, your first impulse is to turn your back upon it, and say “Humbug”—but your third visit will find your brain gasping and straining with futile efforts to take all the wonder in—and appreciate it in its fulness and understand how such a miracle could have been conceived and executed by human brain and human hands. You will never get tired of looking at the picture, but your reflections—your efforts to grasp an intelligible Something—you hardly know what—will grow so painful that you will have to go away from the thing, in order to obtain relief. You may find relief, but you cannot banish the picture—it remains with you still. It is in my mind now—and the smallest feature could not be removed without my detecting it.”

Madame X by John Singer Sargeant

Significance: Sargeant considered this one of the finest works he ever did…It caused a scandal at its unveiling

Thomas Moran – Tetons

This might be overlooked by others, but Moran is my favorite artist of the American West…his paintings of Yellowstone during the 1871 Hayden Expedition led to Yellowstone becoming a National Park in 1872

Fur Traders Descending the Missouri – George Caleb Bingham

Childe Hassam collection in American Wing…as fine of an Impressionist as the greats of France, American artist Childe Hassam was inspired by the coasts of Maine and beyond. This is one of my favorites of his at The Met

European Art...

With 2500 paintings in The European Collection it would take an encyclopedia to get through all the amazing masterworks of European art at The Met….I’ve narrowed it down to a few favorites:

  • The Death of Socrates by David…”In this landmark of Neoclassical painting from the years immediately preceding the French Revolution, David took up a classical story of resisting unjust authority in a sparse, frieze-like composition.”

Vermeer Collection…There are only 34 confirmed (some say 35) Vermeer paintings in the world today. The Met has five. Located in the Robert Lehman Wing (downstairs) they are NOT to be missed

The Impressionists and Rise of Modern ART

As a lover of Impressionism I could spend days on end simply sitting and pondering the glorious waterlilies of Monet or colors in Renoir at The MET.

The Impressionism and Post-Impressionism masters are conveniently located in one central wing…where you can see one of the most extensive collections of Degas in one museums…Witness the triumph of Impressionism’s founder Manet and enjoy the poppies with Monet.

Degas dancers
Van Gogh Irises

Founder of Modern Art, Paul Cezanne (my favorite artist) is heavily featured at The MET including his famed ‘Card Players’

Crossroads to Modern Art:

Picasso and Matisse are featured in the Post-Impressionism Wing as well as the Modern Art galleries

The Met is the first art museum to purchase a Matisse in 1910…

Learn more about the collection and tour ideas here.

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