Dedication to providing the people of the city, including Charleston apartment-ites, the best Southern art had to offer was the goal of James Shoolbred Gibbes, Sr., an art enthusiast. He willed the city $100,000 in a trust to be used for the erection or purchase of a suitable building to be used as a hall for the exhibition of paintings. In 1903, the mayor of Charleston and Gibbes trustees purchased a lot and a lovely, Beaux arts style building was designed and constructed under the supervision of Kentucky architect Frank P. Milburn, and dedicated in 1904.
Today, the museum displays a wide range of art from colonial to renaissance to modern art in three permanent galleries, with numerous special and traveling exhibits. The colonial tour, displays a wide range of portraiture that was popular at the time, as well as shipping and sea side scenes. Henry Benbridge and Jeremiah Theus' works are here.
From 1915 to 1940, Charleston experienced what art historians call a renaissance, or artistic rebirth of the art style of the day. A small community of artists realized a beauty in the extraordinary cultural and architectural past. A new appreciation was gained and recognized by such artists as Alice Ravenel Huger Smith, Elizabeth O'Neill Verner, Anna Heyward Taylor, Alfred Hutty, cornerstones of the period. Visiting artists such as George Biddle and Norman Rockwell were influenced to a certain extent as well, and Charleston can take some credit for the shaping of American art at that time.
The broad contexts of modern art, including cubism, surrealism and expressionism are shown in the Southern art at the Gibbes. Representations of portraiture and landscape are offered as well. The museum is a great repository for local and regional artists to reflect the story of the low country, as most pieces are from these artists. Exciting, beautiful, vibrant art can be found here.
The Gibbes Museum is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and 1 to 5 p.m. on Sunday. It is closed on Mondays and on national holidays. Admission price is $9 for adults, $7 for seniors, students and military, and $5 for children ages 6 to 12. You may be able to pick up a print to hang in your Charleston apartment, so visit when you can.