the permanent fine art collection
The Other Walker Art Gallery
There is a second Walker Art Gallery in Minneapolis that few people know of. It is housed across the street from the world-famous Walker Art Center inside the Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church, and holds the religious paintings that were part of T.B. Walker’s original collection… (watch video above)
The Art Collection at Hennepin Avenue UMC
Few, if any, churches in America have so complete a religious art collection as that of Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church. Housing over 275 works of art, including painting, lithographs, sculpture, graphics, and textiles, the 1916 church building itself draws artistic and architectural note with its cathedral-like construction and stained glass, topped by a slender, soaring spire. Together, edifice and artwork have inspired and given aesthetic pleasure to church members and the visiting public for several generations. Hennepin Avenue UMC’s art is a unique resource in the Upper Midwest, educating, giving joy, and celebrating the sacred Word through visual display.
ARCHITECT: EDWIN HAWLEY HEWITT, 1874-1939
The Neo-Gothic style church edifice was designed by architect Edwin H. Hewitt after the Ely Cathedral in England. The sanctuary is unencumbered by pillars so that every worshipper has a clear view of the pulpit. Richly carved white oak woodwork adorns the chancel, chancel furniture, and organ.
STAINED GLASS PICTURED: THE GREAT NORTH WINDOW
SUBJECT: Ruth, Esther, Mary, Dorcas
Visitors to the sanctuary find themselves bathed in glorious light beaming through the church’s towering stained glass windows. The four pier windows and the three balcony windows were completed by 1939. They were designed by Charles J. Connick of Boston, one of Amerca’s foremost artists in stained glass and the person credited with bringing medieval glass techniques to the United States.
People at Hennepin Avenue UMC know that their collection, like any resource, must be maintained and that it should reflect the art of today as well as the past. Restoration programs have played an important part in the life of the collection and continue to do so today.
The T.B. Walker Collection of Religious Paintings
Perhaps the most striking of all the church’s collected works are the oil paintings given to the church by one of its earliest members, Thomas Barlow Walker (1840–1927). Having donated several paintings to the church around the turn of the century, Walker gained his fellow congregants’ partnership in displaying religious art when they elected to incorporate an art gallery into the design of the new church building. On this page are featured a revolving few pieces of art from this collection.
ARTIST: ANTONIO CISERI, ITALIAN (1821–1891)
PAINTING (featured above): ECCE HOMO
Pilate presents Jesus to the crowd after his trial. Ciseri painted in the academic style, but shows influence from the impressionists and post impressionists. This was the first painting to be given to Hennepin Avenue UMC (circa 1900).
ARTIST: JULES JEAN ANTOINE LECOMPTE DU NUOY, FRENCH (1842–1923)
PAINTING: CHRISTIAN PILGRIMS AT THE TOMB OF THE HOLY VIRGIN IN JERUSALEM, 1877
Du Nuoy studied with the noted French academic painter, Jena-Leon Gerome. Like many artists of his generation, he was captivated by exotic scenes of the Near East. This painting was exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1878 and at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts in 1991.
ARTIST: JUAN CORREA DE VIVAR, SPANISH (ACTIVE 1549–1561)
PAINTING: THE ANNUNCIATION
The Archangel, Gabriel, comes to tell the Virgin Mary that she is to become the mother of the Lord. This is one of three paintings from a church near Toledo, Spain. It was part of a multi-panel screen behind the altar.
ARTIST: PIETER POURBUS, FLEMISH (1523–1584)
PAINTING: ABRAHAM AND THE ANGELS
The most significant work in the collection is this mannerist painting on wood panel. Northern European painters often set biblical subjects in their own time. Note the house and the servant’s dress. Three messengers from God visit Abraham with the news that he and Sarah will have a son, Isaac. Sarah laughs at the idea of becoming a mother in her old age.
special fine art projects
January 31, 2020
7pm in the Art Gallery
An evening celebration was held on January 31, 2020, which included live instrumentals, a presentation by art conservator Jane Westerlund about the refurbishment of the painting, a premiere of the revolutionary new Greenstein translation of “Job,” and a concert excerpt from the Hennepin Singers’ February 2 concert with Four Voices String Quartet. The evening culminated in the unveiling of the freshly restored frame and rehung painting, “Job’s Messenger’s.”
Gilt Frame Restoration Project
The Gift of Gilding: Restoring the Frame of “Adoration of the Shepherds”
by Margaret Osborne
Artisans from across the country gave Hennepin Avenue UMC a gift of their talent this summer. The Society of Gilders held its annual conference in St. Paul on June 17–21, 2019 and they offered to restore a picture frame in the local community. The Fine Arts Team was approached by local gilder Carol Lenington this spring to see if the church was interested.
When you look at a painting, you may not immediately notice the frame, but it can do much to enhance or detract from the painted image. One of the reasons the Art Gallery looks so beautiful is because of the work that has been done to take care of both paintings and frames. Over the years we have conserved most of the paintings given to Hennepin by T.B. Walker, and placed them in new or restored picture frames. The frame for “Job’s Messengers” was in poor shape and required extensive work, so currently it is out for repairs at a local studio. The “Adoration of the Shepherds” painting was conserved in 1981, but the sturdy frame around it was untouched and looked dull and dirty. Carol agreed this frame would work well for The Society of Gilders’ restoration project.
Hennepin Avenue UMC paid for the professional movers who took the painting down and removed it from the frame, as well as for the gilding supplies (including 23K gold leaf). Up to ten gilders worked on the restoration over the course of four days. First, they cleaned the surface, made minor repairs, and sealed it to prepare for the gild. Next, they applied a “size” which provided a tacky surface to hold the gold leaf. Then, they carefully applied the gold leaf and brushed it into position around the complex surfaces of the ornate frame (gold leaf is so thin that it will fly away or disintegrate if you try to pick it up with your fingers). After applying protective shellac, the surface looked too bright and gaudy, so they “toned” it–they applied darker pigment to the recesses and polished the high points. This brought out the texture of the frame and gave it the proper “age.”
View the Restoration
The next time you visit the Art Gallery, be sure to look for this painting on the North Wall. You will be amazed how much better it looks with this beautifully restored frame! Our thanks to the gilders who shared their unique talents to make this happen.