Museum Wise… The Cleveland Museum of Art — What to See, Where to Go, Eat and Stay

Why is CMA so Special?

Nathaniel Olds by Jeptha Homer Wade

Nathaniel Olds by Jeptha Homer Wade

Because the first pair of snazzy sunglasses were made in Cleveland? ……Not quite.

In 1920 there were 80 millionaires in this country and 60 of them were in Cleveland (that’s why we have so many churches!) We were an industrial giant because of our location on the Erie Canal and the Great Lake’s Lake Erie. Cleveland was the Car Capital before Detroit.

Cleveland’s rich history is legendary. This portrait was painted by Jeptha Homer Wade. An aspiring young artist that needed a day job, he contracted the implementation of telegraph poles. Fascinated by the technology, he bought up the regional carriers to found Western Union.

In this portrait of Nathaniel Olds, these eye-catching green glasses are a gallery focal point. The first oil lamps invented were called Argand lamps burning whale oil. With the light they produced being 6 to 10 times brighter than candles, the concern was for potential damage to sight. (In 1929, they became Foster Grant’s and the rest is history….)

In the meantime, when the lamps were adapted to use kerosene, they became very affordable and popular…and who was in the fuel business? The Rockefellers…

The story of generations of Rockefellers and Wades, are only a few of many favorites of the founding fathers of Cleveland and the Cleveland Museum of Art.

Armor for Man and Horse with Völs-Colonna Arms, c. 1575 North Italy, 16th century

Armor for Man and Horse with Völs-Colonna Arms, c. 1575
North Italy, 16th century

The first Director of the Cleveland Museum or Art, Fred Whiting, needed to open the museum in 1916 with a collection. How would one begin to choose? With Cleveland being an industrial giant, he collaborated with the Metropolitan Museum of Art and decided on Arms and Armor, to be a source of insipiration and education with iron and steel being so near and dear to the hearts of this community. With all of the renovation, and the gallery itself  being updated through the years, the arms and armor collection has always remained in the same spot in the museum, considered to be sacred space.


The Holy Family on the Steps, 1648 Nicolas Poussin (French, 1594-1665)

The Holy Family on the Steps, 1648
Nicolas Poussin (French, 1594-1665)


World renown art critic with a story of her own, Sr. Wendy, chose CMA as one of the 5 museums she visited on her trip to the US. She considered this painting to be our “most important and the most important of her trip”. There is so much to see in the symbolism as well as color and design of this piece. It also has a very interesting story behind it’s Provenence……



Nataraja, Shiva as the Lord of Dance, 1000s South India, Tamil Nadu, Chola period (900-13th Century)




CMA has an internationally reknown Asian collection due to the dilligence of long time legendary Director Sherman Lee.


Table Fountain, c. 1320-1340 France, Paris, 14th century

Table Fountain, c. 1320-1340
France, Paris, 14th century


This object receives international attention because it is the most complete of its kind from the Middle Ages. When the conservation lab demonstrated how it would work using alcohol, the results were described as magical. It was used to circulate rose scented water for the amusement of the ultra wealthy Royals as they entertained in the early 1300’s!


Mourner from the Tomb of Philip the Bold, Duke of Burgundy (1364-1404), 1404-1410 Claus de Werve (Netherlandish, 1380-1439)

Mourner from the Tomb of Philip the Bold, Duke of Burgundy (1364-1404), 1404-1410
Claus de Werve (Netherlandish, 1380-1439)



These stunningly beautiful alabaster carvings have the most minute of fine detail in thier faces, expressions, clothing and posture. each is so totally unique and such a fine piece all by itself. together they inspire awe, mystery, curiosity and admiration. You can see them here or all of the rest of the 41 can be viewed at the tomb of Phillip the Bold in Lyon, Fance.



Portrait of Lisa Colt Curtis, 1898 John Singer Sargent (American, 1856-1925) oil on canvas, Framed - h:249.00 w:134.00 d canvas, Framed - h:249.00 w:134.00 d:9.50 cm (h:98 w:52 3/4 d:3 11/16 inches) Unframed - h:219.30 w:104.80 cm (h:86 5/16 w:41 1/4 inches). Leonard C. Hanna, Jr. Fund 1998.168

Portrait of Lisa Colt Curtis, 1898
John Singer Sargent (American, 1856-1925)
oil on canvas,




Visitors stop me in the museum to ask if we have a John Singer Sargent? Here it is, a gift by JSS to his cousin Ralph Curtis, of the East Coast Curtis family and foundation, on the occasion of his marriage to Lisa Colt Curtis of Colt firearms fame. The setting is the Palazzo Barbaro in Venice, owned by the Curtis family and enjoyed by such famous guests as Isabella Stewart Gardner, Henry James, Vernon Lee and Monet.



The Burning of the Houses of Lords and Commons, 16 October 1834, 1835 Joseph Mallord William Turner (British, 1775-1851)

The Burning of the Houses of Lords and Commons, 16 October 1834, 1835
Joseph Mallord William Turner (British, 1775-1851)



Do we have a Turner?  We have THE Turner…..JMW Turner was watching the Burning of the House of Lords and Commons from one of the boats in the bottom right hand corner of this picture!



The Thinker, 1880-1881 Auguste Rodin (French, 1840-1917) bronze, Overall - h:182.90 w:98.40 d:142.20 cm (h:72 w:38 11/16 d:55 15/16 inches) Wt: 1,650 pounds - weighed by crane on 5/31/2006.

The Thinker, 1880-1881
Auguste Rodin (French, 1840-1917)
bronze, Overall – h:182.90 w:98.40 d:142.20 cm (h:72 w:38 11/16 d:55 15/16 inches) Wt: 1,650 pounds – weighed by crane on 5/31/200


Museums have copies of Rodin’s Thinker, with the stipulation that they be displayed high above the heads of the viewer suggesting Dante looking down on the chaos of his ‘Inferno’. Ironically CMA’s Thinker became part of the chaos when it was bombed in 1970 by an anti war demonstator. After much consideration and debate, Conservation decided to keep our Thinker as it is.





Giant Toothpaste Tube, 1964 Claes Thure Oldenburg (American, b. 1929) vinyl over canvas filled with kapok; wood, metal and cast plastic,

We have some great Claus Oldenburg stories in Cleveland, not the least of which is about the symbolism behind this piece. Our program with Case Western Reserve university allows us tour the museum with them regularly. I love to visit this piece with dental students. How could a tube of toothpaste have meaning? How about as a symbol of transition? Think about it!

Don’t miss a visit to GalleyOne while you are in the new atrium.  It includes an interactive, state of the art, 40 foot wall, with every object in the museum on a loop that allows you to select the objects of your choice, plug in your iPad or iPhone and download your personal custom tour…..or choose from the many options…..

You will find CMA to be one of the most beautiful, inviting, impressive museums of your travels!


Home to the Cleveland Museum of Art is a charming area called University Circle.  It includes, within sight and walking distance, the Cleveland Botanical Gardens, Cleveland Museum of Natural History, Case Western Reserve University, University Hospitals and Severance Center, the home of the Internationally renown Cleveland Orchestra.

      The Cleveland Botanical Garden, located in the University Circle neighborhood of Cleveland, Ohio, in the United States, was founded in 1930 as the Garden Center of Greater Cleveland. It was the first such organization in an American city.   ……..The centerpiece of the $50 million 2003 expansion is The Eleanor Armstrong Smith Glasshouse, an 18,000 square foot (1,700 m²) conservatory home to plant and animal life from two separate biomes, the spiny desert of Madagascar and the cloud forest of Costa Rica.

       Cleveland Museum of Natural History   Collection features over four million specimens in the fields of anthropology, archeology, astronomy, botany, geology, paleontology, zoology, and wildlife biology …

        SEVERANCE HALL     America’s Most Beautiful Concert Hall

Regarded by many music-lovers as one of the world’s most beautiful concert halls, Severance Hall opened in 1931 as the home of The Cleveland Orchestra…..A $36-million restoration and expansion of Severance Hall was completed in January 2000. The two-year Renovation Project was undertaken to restore the hall’s original detailing,

Up (East) Euclid Avenue is MOCA, Museum of Contemporary Art.


Through approximately eight exhibitions a year, all accompanied by public and education programs,

Because MOCA is a non-collecting institution – one of the relatively few such contemporary art museums in the country

Taking a right at MOCA onto Mayfield Road and going up the hill will take you into Murray Hill, Cleveland’s Little Italy, with lots of charming food and gallery choices

Up the hill from Little Italy is Lakeview Cemetery with the spirit  of Cleveland Founders including the Rockefellers, Wades, Huntingtons, Mathers, Severances, Eliot Ness,  as well as James A. Garfield, 20th President of the United States, in the James A. Garfield Monument.

      Lakeview Cemetery  

As a tourist destination, The Lake View Cemetery offers a variety of walking, bus, and self-guided tours. Among the tour topics are geology, architecture, horticulture, nature, animals, and history. In addition, there are picnic sites and hiking trails…...

Don’t miss the The Wade Chapel, designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany,  commissioned by the Wade family in honor of Jeptha Homer Wade, founder of Western Union.

North from the museum will take you to the Cleveland Cultural Gardens in Rockefeller Park, former backyard of the John D. Rockefeller family.

Hidden in Plain Sight is a short documentary about discovering the world
that’s right in front of you. It follows Luke Frazier as he reflects on the
Cleveland Cultural Gardens, the journey that led him there, and his discovery
of its beauty, history and wonder.

Favorite Places to Eat–

  • CMA docents like to walk over to the Glidden House for a glass of wine their very cozy wine bar.  We always run into someone interesting, on a visit to Cleveland for an interesting appointment or interview at Cleveland Institute of Music, or CASE or Cleveland Clinic, and the like.
  • L’Albatros located up the alley from Glidden House at 11401 Bellflower, is rated in the top 10 restaurants in the country.  We especially enjoy it when we can dine outside.  You will again be surrounded by the delightful, charming University Circle crowd.
  • Little Italy – Take a stroll and take your choice.  I don’t think you can lose!  Pasta and outdoor dining in the Summer!  What a wonderful treat!
  • Only 4 miles to Downtown on Euclid Avenue for all kinds of dining.  The Old Arcade is an historical landmark, 5th St Arcade is new and bubbling with activity.  On of my favorites is the Blue Point Grille for seafood at 7th and St. Clair.  You will be hard pressed to choose when you see the neighbor options.  Another favorite of ours is Mallorca for paella a few blocks away on West 9th.
  • Tremont – Lots of options here!  Tremont is one of Cleveland’s oldest neighborhoods listed on the National Register of Historic Places;  You will feel the neighborhood atmosphere in the air.  Lolita (900 Literary Road) – Iron Chef Winner, Michael Symon‘s bistro is one of a number of standout neighborhood eateries.

Where to Stay…..

  • Glidden House –In 1909, Francis K. Glidden, the son of the founder and president of Glidden Paint Co., built a dream home for his family in the University Circle
  •  Within walking distance with a flavor for the neighborhood, check out

      • University Circle Bed and Breakfast -#5 of 13 B&Bs / Inns in Clevelandlocated  at 1575 E. 108th St., University Circle, Cleveland, OH 44106

      • DoubleTree by Hilton The Tudor Arms Hotel #8 of 35 Hotels in Cleveland Certificate of Excellence,10660 Carnegie Avenue, Cleveland, OH 441

Hermes at CMA

DSC09764Hermes uses 75,000 uniquely ‘Hermes’ custom colors to create their legendary, heirloom quality, silk scarves, one of fashion’s most coveted accessories.

In their demonstrations at the Cleveland Museum of Art, the experts from Lyon, France talked the enthusiastic audience, of men and women alike, through the actual making of a scarf from start to the fine finish.  DSC09662 DSC09663 DSC09707 DSC09729Henri meticulously places and paints with a separate screen for each and every color in every scarf.  Each and every shade of every color couldn’t be more perfect and matching the screen to the print exactly… every time a talent.  The spectacular colors take your breath away!


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