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The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens is committed to engage and inspire through the arts, gardens and education. A permanent collection of nearly 5,000 works of art on a riverfront campus offers more than 95,000 annual visitors a truly unique experience on the First Coast. Nationally recognized education programs serve adults and children of all abilities.

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Italian Art Lecture Series



Written by Membership Officer Brittany Nazario

This past year, both Cummer Beaches and Cummer Amelia collaborated with local organizations to present a three-part lecture series on Italian Art. Cummer Beaches was first to host the series in September, October, and November of 2018. The series was in partnership with the Beaches Museum, who hosted the lectures in their historic Chapel. Cummer Amelia followed with the same series on Italian art in January, February, and March of 2019. The series was hosted by the Fernandina Beach Branch Library. Each lecture filled to capacity and were thoroughly enjoyed by all who attended.

Dr. Debra Murphy, University of North Florida

The Professor of Art History at the University of North Florida, Dr. Debra Murphy, presented the lecture series. She has been the inaugural chair of the Department of Art and Design at UNF since 2004. She has been recognized for outstanding teaching by UNF, the Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville, and the Southeastern College Art Conference. She has also been honored by the university for her founding of the department’s Italy program, which recently celebrated its tenth year. Dr. Murphy has long been a member of the Cummer Museum and has written a book on its early director, Joseph Jeffers Dodge. She has also written on the Museum’s The Holy Family, attributed to Giorgio Vasari.

In part one of the lecture series, “Florence: The Cradle of the Renaissance”, Dr. Murphy explored one of the most spectacular flowerings of creativity in the history of art against the background of such titans as Donatello, Ghiberti, Brunelleschi, Michelangelo, and Raphael. Renaissance works from the Museum’s collection such as the Madonna of Humility with Angels by Agnolo Gaddi, the Portrait of Bartolomeo Compagni, by Pier Francesco Foschi and The Holy Family by Giorgio Vasari were examined in the broader context of Florentine art.

“Rome as a Center for the Arts” was the title of the second lecture in the series. This presentation focused on the Eternal City as a source of opportunity and patronage for artists such Michelangelo, Raphael, Bernini, and countless others. The central role of Rome as an artistic and training hub was sustained by the presence of wealthy merchants, bankers, ecclesiastic figures and, of course, the Church. Artists from all corners of Europe, and later the United States, from the 15th century forward, flocked to the Italian city. Works from the Museum’s collection offer many examples, including paintings by Claude Lorrain and Charles-Joseph Natoire, which Dr. Murphy highlighted during the discussion.

“Caravaggio and the Drama of Baroque Art” culminated the three-part series. Although he died in 1610, Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, the bad boy of Baroque art, cast a long shadow over most of the 17th century. Numerous artists were influenced by him while others rejected his dramatic and realistic approach. Dr. Murphy showed selections from the Cummer’s impressive Baroque collection, including an early work by Peter Paul Rubens, which were discussed in the context of Caravaggio’s contributions and challenges to artistic norms.

The Cummer Museum’s Affinity Groups offer members unique opportunities to become more involved in the Museum by exploring their own passions. Each Affinity Group has its own board and special events, which support the mission of the Museum. Cummer Amelia is an organization for Nassau county residents devoted to encouraging interest in and support for the artistic and cultural significance of the Museum. The purpose of Cummer Beaches is to support the Museum and enhance the membership experience for Beaches-area residents. Cummer Beaches provides significant financial and volunteer support to the Museum, promoting education programs for both youth and adults, and creating a variety of fun events for its members.

For more information on the Cummer Museum’s Affinity Groups please visit our website. We hope to see you at the next lecture series!

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