Montgomery, AL, October 3, 2023 – This fall, the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts’ temporary
galleries will feature more than 30 exquisite paintings on loan from the Columbia Museum of Art in
Columbia, South Carolina. On view from October 13, 2023, through January 7, 2024, European
Splendors: Old Master Paintings from the Kress Collection contains works from Columbia’s Kress
Collection along with two objects from the MMFA’s collection that exemplify historical European
Together, these works demonstrate a renewed emphasis on the human condition during the late
Medieval and Baroque periods as realism and individuality emerged from the more abstract and
symbolic depictions of religious subjects that characterized the art of the Middle Ages. The exhibition
culminates with examples of Dutch portraiture and still life, along with works that illustrate the impulse
to bring a piece of history home as a souvenir of the traditional European Grand Tour of famous
landmarks and the 18th-century mania for Greek and Roman ruins.
One of America’s premier art collectors and patrons of the
early 20th century was Samuel H. Kress (1863–1955), who
made his fortune through the chain of popular S. H. Kress
& Co. five-and-dime department stores throughout the
U.S., including in Alabama. An Egyptian Revival-style
building opened in 1929, housed Montgomery’s original
Kress store, and is now a revitalized architectural landmark
downtown on Dexter Avenue.
Samuel Kress used his fortune to buy primarily European
old master paintings, and he wanted to bring the
appreciation of these works to everyday Americans amid
the Great Depression. The Samuel H. Kress Foundation
built on this idea by donating artworks to the permanent
collections of regional and university museums nationwide.
After a large donation to the National Gallery of Art in
Washington, D.C., the second largest gift of Kress
collection works was made to the Columbia Museum of
Art in Columbia, South Carolina.
Curator Margaret Lynne Ausfeld says, “Samuel Kress and
his foundation were responsible for donating more than
3,000 works of art to 96 museums in the United States, the most important single donation of art in the
nation’s history. And Montgomery was not forgotten. At that time—a fledgling art school and museum
founded in 1930—the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts was gifted two early Italian paintings from the
Kress Foundation, one in 1936 and another in 1937. This exhibition will feature works that are much
earlier in art history than the MMFA’s major holdings of American art, which date beginning in the late
1700’s. The exhibition will also allow our viewers to see paintings created in the same eras, and
featuring many of the same subjects, as the works in our Old Master Print Collection.”