The Allentown Art Museum of the Lehigh Valley is a large art museum in the heart of Allentown, in the state of Pennsylvania, United States. Founded in 1934, it currently houses more than thirteen thousand works of art. Unlike most other museums built by a single person, this one was an idea brought by a group headed by an impressionist painter named Walter Emerson Baum. As a regional Allentown arts institution, the Allentown Art Museum is also home to a huge library housing almost twenty thousand titles and forty periodicals. Hence, it is an important arts destination and cultural resource in the entire Lehigh Valley region.
As mentioned, the museum was founded thanks to a group headed and organized by Baum. It originally carried the name “Allentown Art Gallery” and opened on Hunsicker School on exactly March 17, 1934. They were a decent seventy canvases on display at that time and the works of the impressionist artists attracted many arts enthusiasts in the local and regional settings.
By June of 1936, Allentown, PA gave the rapidly growing museum a permanent home, in the form of a Federal style house in the Rose Garden, particularly in Cedar Park. The very first official museum curator was John E. Berninger, also a local artist.
The museum received a very generous endowment in 1959. This was in the form of fifty three Baroque and Renaissance paintings as well as sculptures courtesy of a collector from Cherryville, Samuel H. Kress. This “Kress Gift” eventually stimulated community visionaries and donors to purchase and eventually refurbish a building that once housed the Presbyterian Church to become the new home of the collection.
By 1975, the expansion building for the museum, designed by Edgar Tafel was finally completed and this subsequently led to the major development and enhancement of the museum’s programs and collecting plans. There was a room added and was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright as part of the permanent collection. A library was also constructed from the second Francis W. Little House.
Modern Day Expansion
In 2010, the Allentown Art Museum enjoyed a $15.4 million expansion project headed by Venturi Scott Brown, an architecture firm based in Philadelphia. The purpose was to renovate and add almost eight thousand square feet of classroom and gallery space, including a corner cafe and gift shop. There was also a plan to add an all-glass facade to the side facing Fifth Street.
The museum’s present collection is still dominated by European paintings. However, visitors will see that there in fact is a large collection of textiles and gift of works on paper. The most notable European arts are the Game Stall at Market, Studio of Frans Snyders, Saint Jerome Penitent, Portrait of Henrica Ploost van Amstel, and the Central Panel of an Altarpiece Mystic Marriage of Saint Catherine by Giovanni del Biondo. The current American art collection meanwhile is highlighted by the Ann Penn Allen by Gilbert Stuart, Niagara Falls by Gustav Johann Grunewald, and Floriform Vase from Tiffany Studios.