Bloch Galleries at the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art

A few weeks ago I did something I’ve been wanting to do since March—I went to the new Bloch Galleries at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. Actually, the Bloch Galleries are in an older part of the museum, but they have been newly renovated and new works displayed.

Henry Bloch of H&R Block fame recently donated a number of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works in his private collection to the Nelson-Atkins Museum. Impressionist paintings are among my favorites, and I was thrilled to see an expanded collection in my local art museum.

I started with lunch at Rozelle Court—always a treat. After soup, half a sandwich, and a raspberry peach mousse tart, I headed to the Bloch Galleries.

It was a delight to see old favorites from the Nelson-Atkins Impressionist collection combined with the new works from the Bloch Collection. For example, one panel of Monet’s Water Lilies has been in the Nelson collection ever since I can remember. This grand painting still takes up a whole wall of one gallery.

Water Lilies, by Claude Monet

And I took a moment to wonder at Monet’s brush strokes.

Detail from Monet's Water Lilies (click on this image to enlarge it and see the brush strokes better)

Then I marveled at collections of old and new works filling other corners of the new galleries, like little gems gathered into a net. A new treasure in every room, around every corner.

A corner in the Bloch Galleries

And another corner.


I could have stood for hours in each of these lovely corners. But a couple of small exquisite pieces from Mr. Bloch’s collection in particular caught my attention.

Georges Seurat, The Channel at Gravelines, Petit-Fort-Phillippe, oil on panel, 1890, gift from the Bloch Collection


Paul Signac, Portrieux, The Bathing Cabins, Opus 185 (Beach of the Countess), oil on canvas, 1888, gift from the Bloch Collection


As well as a painting that resembled one my grandmother had for many years (though the painting she owed was no Monet).

Claude Monet, Boulevard de Capucines, oil on canvas, 1873-74

After spending an hour or so wandering the Bloch Galleries, I went in search of other treasures. When I go to a museum, even one I’ve been to often, I usually try to go through a room or two at random to see what I might find. This time, I wandered through the American Galleries at the Nelson, hoping I might find some inspiration for my next book cover. I didn’t find anything that sparked my interest.

So I wandered into the Chinese Galleries by happenstance. I haven’t been through the Asian Galleries at the Nelson in several years, though the Nelson is renowned for its Asian art collection.

This time, I was struck by similarities between the Chinese art and the Impressionist works I’d just seen. I walked past two formal displays of furniture and paintings. I’m sure I’ve seen them in the past, but this time I noticed the fine details in a silk panel and in a small painting of a mountain, each of which brought to mind the delicate elegance of the Impressionist paintings in the Bloch Galleries.

After Lan Ying, born 1585, Mountain Landscape, set of twelve hanging scrolls, ink and color on silk. Displayed with furniture.


Detail from one of the Mountain Landscape scrolls

The Four Seasons, Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), 18th-19th Century, Dali marble from Yunnan Province (thin marble sliced into thin sheets and framed as stone pictures). Displayed with furniture.


One of the Four Seasons marble pictures

 Art spans the centuries and the continents. It is specific and yet it is universal.

Realizations like this are what keep me going back to the Nelson-Atkins Museum time and time again. Such realizations and the desserts in Rozelle Court. I’m already looking forward to my next visit.

What do you enjoy most about at art museums?

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  1. I have thought [but so far not acted] that it would be nice to have a list of good small museums around the country. In the meantime, I will add this to my list of potential places to see.

    • Great idea!
      I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the many good museums I’ve seen while traveling. For Western art, the Joslyn Museum in Omaha is wonderful. And I love the Norton Museum in West Palm Beach.
      Thanks for reading, Theresa

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