Cambridge is, of course, well-known due to Cambridge University and the various colleges scattered around town, but one might not realise the colleges have affiliated museums that are worth the effort to view if you are in the area.
Due to a spot of bad weather, we decided to make the drive down to see the Fitzwilliam Museum. The Fitzwilliam Museum is the arts and antiquities museum of the University of Cambridge, and the lead of the University of Cambridge museums consortium. A major perk–Admission is FREE! Yes, free.
As an art lover, I have gladly paid admission to art museums for the privilege of viewing the treasures within, but I was even more excited at the prospect of a free day at the museum. They do ask for a donation, and we gladly contributed to help with their costs.
The first time we came upon the Fitzwilliam Museum, we turned a corner in an attempt to find a car park and everyone in the car said, “whoa!” at the view. The exterior is a large and impressive Palladian influenced building with Corinthian columns, pilasters, and classical style pediment. It dwarfs every other building on the block with its size and architecture.
While the museum itself was founded in 1816, the initial building, completed in 1845, was called “The Founder’s Building” and designed by George Basevi and completed by C.R. Cockerell. The entrance hall was completed in 1875 by Edward Middleton Barry.
The view of the ceiling before you enter is beautiful and was an unexpected stop to gawk before I entered the door.
Just after you enter, the hall is beautiful. A great dome (I wish my photo hadn’t been blurry!), stone columns, insets for statuary, and a large staircase are stunning and give a rich appearance in contrast to the simplicity of the colours in the remainder of the museum.
We began our trek through the ancient art exhibit and worked our way through. While they were not extremely large exhibitions, the content made the displays impressive. We wended our way through Egypt, where we viewed several sarcophagi, a mummified kitten, and various stonework and hieroglyphs to Greece, featuring pottery from each period of Greek history, statuary, and coins.
One of my favourite parts had to be the Cycladic figurines. We went into an in-depth study in an art history class (Bronze Age in the Aegean) and to see not just one but two of the small white figures was awesome! They were also each from different time periods, which could be determined from their shapes and a few slight variations in their compositions.
Anyway! If you get me going on art, I could ramble on for days!
At the time of our visit, the museum had several special exhibits, including one on Goya, a modern art exhibit featuring mannequins called Silent Partners, and an exhibit of prints by Caroline Watson and other female artists. (I hope to do another write-up on Caroline Watson sometime, so I won’t elaborate too much here!) Due to the children and the content of the exhibits, we did not tour the Goya or the Silent Partners exhibits, but I do recommend the Caroline Watson exhibition if it happens to travel to a gallery near you. It’s wonderful!
Over the course of a couple of hours, we rambled through the ancient art, medieval, weaponry and armour, the printmakers, and the Dutch masters before we decided to save the rest for a return trip. I could spend all day, but I have children, who after a time, decided they were hungry. There is something to be said for returning to fight another day rather than beating a dead horse!
I look forward to returning to the Fitzwilliam Museum, and if you happen to be in Cambridge and are looking for a day of fine art, then I highly recommend the experience!
(If you intend to visit and take photos, please consult the museum’s rules on photography. I was relegated to the use of my phone due to their regulations.)
Next up – Service at the Norwich Cathedral