It is quite amazing to find a world class art collection on display at a public library, but that is just what the Charles City Public Library in Charles City, Iowa has to offer. They have a gallery that the public can come and enjoy. The exhibit includes 77 old master prints from the collection of Arthur Mooney. Artists in the collection include Rembrandt, Grant Wood, and Salvadore Dali to name a few.
While on a trip with the Midwest Travel Bloggers to Charles City, we took a trip to see this amazing collection. The entire town of Charles City is filled with art. It is downtown, along the River and there are even statues outside of the library.
Once inside the gallery though, art takes on a whole new meaning seeing work by the Masters in a collection of prints that represent over 500 years of printmaking, encompassing three continents and various techniques that include woodcut, engraving and lithography.
Arthur C. Frisk, the Curator of the collection points out that the prints acquired by Arthur Mooney were created by artists, or under their direct supervision. All prints are original, and are not to be confused with the many kinds of photomechanical reproductions of works of art, misleadingly called “prints”.
The story of Arthur Mooney and his life is as fascinating to me as the art itself. It’s almost like a Charles Dicken’s story. The brochure, “The Mooney Collection” states, “Arthur Mooney was born in Rockford, Illinois in 1859 and came to Charles City at the age of eight with his parents and sister all whom died in 1881 when he was but twelve.”
Taken in by photographer James E. Rich, Mooney learned about photography and developed an interest at an early age. In 1890, Arthur Mooney attended art school in Minneapolis and later moved to New York City where he was an employee, and later an executive at the Eastman-Kodak Company.
In New York Arthur Mooney became interested in art and the art movement. Moving in the art circles of New York, and traveling to Europe often for work, he started collecting art and especially original fine art prints.
Over the years, Arthur Mooney never forgot the kindness of the people of Charles City and he left his magnificent collection to the Charles City Library. He is quoted saying in remembering the people and his childhood, “the distant days and the people who were so kind in many ways.”
Arthur Mooney (picture above) made his first gift to the Charles City Public Library in December of 1930 and then, upon his death in 1941, at the age of 82, Arthur Mooney bequeathed the remainder of his art library and print collection to the Charles City Public Library. This included books, manuscripts, monographs, and biographies on art and artists of the Renaissance.
The art is quite lovely and quite diverse. Many have religious themes like the first print in the collection, a 15 century Michael Wolgemuth woodcut titled “Solomon and his Wives”. There is an amazing woodcut representing John the Baptist and there is a Rembrandt lithograph, “Descent From the Cross”. The art truly varies and crosses themes and years.
After recently visiting Cedar Rapids and immersing myself in Grant Wood during my stay, I really enjoyed Grant Wood’s Tree Planting Group lithograph, but must say, my favorite of all of the art, was the Salvador Dali color lithograph titled “Virgin and Child”.
Whether you spend hours, or a few minutes taking a quick stroll through the gallery, make it a point to stop in if you are anywhere in the area. The gallery is free and open to the public during library hours. Special times and group tours may be arranged. The Charles City Public Library is located at 106 Milwaukee Mall, Charles City, Iowa 50615. Call 641-257-6319 or log onto www.charlescitypl.com for more details.