The Washington County Museum of Fine Arts (WCMFA) houses a nationally recognized permanent collection of art, and is also arranging rotating exhibitions. The permanent collection is comprised of several different sections and includes – among other things – Old Masters, United States paintings from the 1800s and early 1900s, and decorative art.

In addition to this, this space is also used for concerts, film showings, art classes, and special events for adults or children.

The museum was established by the married couple William Henry Singer, Jr. and Anna Brugh Singer, who donated both the building and the starter collection, and then continued to acquire art for the museum throughout the years. Art has also been added to the museum after their lifetimes.

Today, the museum holds over 6,000 art objects, including pieces by well-known artists such as Norman Rockwell, Milton Avery, Grace Hartigan, Robert Indiana, Emily Clayton Bishop, Helen Frankenthaler, Frank Stella, Philip Guston, and the sculptors Auguste Rodins and Gutzon Borglum.

Washington County Museum of Fine Arts

Entrance fee

The Washington County Museum of Fine Arts does not charge an entrance fee.

Location

Coordinates: 39.6370°N 77.7316°W

Address: 401 Museum Drive, Hagerstown, MD 21740

The museum building is the centrepiece of Hagerstown City Park, a public urban park found south-west of Hagerstown´s central business district. In addition to the WCMFA, several other museums and galleries are located within this park: the Mansion House Art Gallery, the Western Maryland 202 Locomotive Display and Museum, and the Hager House and Museum; once home to Hagerstown founder Jonathan Hager.

Accreditation

WCMFA is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM).

Art collection

The core of the WCMFA art collection is paintings from the 1700s, 1800s and early 1900s. Examples of artists represented in this section of the collection are Thomas Sully and Benjamin West.

A lot of the art at the WCMFA are from United States artists, but you will also find European, Asian and African art here.

Maryland art

Unsurprisingly, the WCMFA has an interesting and varied collection of Maryland art, including fine art, decorative art and folk art from different parts of the state. You can for instance see portraits by Charles Willson Peale, Rembrandt Peale and Sarah Miriam Peale here.

Impressionist friends of the founders

The museum´s founders William and Anna Singer were friends with several United States impressionists, and works from them are included in the collection, e.g. Childe Hassam and Willard Leroy Metcalf.

The Hudson River School

The museum is home to works by several members of the Hudson River School, a mid-1800s United States art movement established by landscape painters influenced by Romanticism. Examples of Hudson River School paintings at the WCMFA are the ones by Frederic Edwin Church,  John Frederick Kensett, Jasper Cropsey, Albert Bierstadt, Thomas Cole, Thomas Moran, and George Inness.

The Aschan School

The works of George Luks, Eduard Steichen, Robert Henri, William Merrrit Chase, and Arthur B. Davies are all good examples of Aschan School paintings present at the WCMFA.

Pottery

A less known, but very interesting, part of the WCMFA collection is the pottery created by the eccentric ceramic artist George Ohr (1857-1918). Labelling himself The Mad Potter of Biloxi, Ohr was a trailblazer for innovative and experimental pottery in the Mississippi region, chiefly using clay from the Tchoutacabouffa River. He died largely unknown and his creations spent decades stored in a garage behind his son´s gas station in Biloxi. Today, Ohr is considered a precursor to the American Abstract-Expressionism movement.

Art Decco glass

The WCMFA holds a collection of Art Decco glass from Tiffany and Lalique.

Stained glass

The stained glass panel in the rotunda was made by local artist Robert Martin.

Sculptures

  • The museum owns a group of thirteen works by the renowned French sculptor Auguste Rodin (1840-1917).
  • Before getting to work on Mount Rushmore, the sculpter Gutzon Borglum made a study of Abraham Lincoln, and that piece is now at the WCMFA.

The museum building

The neo-Georgian style building was designed for the WCMFA by the New York architectural firm Hyde & Shepherd. It is a red brick structure trimmed with local limestone, and the facade includes the museum´s name in capital letters. The cornerstone was placed on July 15, 1930, and the museum opened to the public on September 16 the following year.

Two new wings were added in the late 1940s.

In the mid-1990s, a new section was added to create an open courtyard around the original entrance.

The founders

The WCMFA was founded by the married couple William Henry Singer, Jr. and Anna Brugh Singer. They lived most of their lives in Europe, but decided to create an art museum in Washington County, Maryland – more specifically in Annan´s hometown Hagerstown.

When the museum building was finnished in 1931, it was filled with a substantial collection of European and North American art, and donated to the community. Over the years, the couple continued to donate art to the museum.

William, the son of a wealthy Pittsburgh steel magnate, was a post-impressionist painter, and the Singer couple travelled a lot in both the U.S. and Europe and befriended a lot of artists. Espcially Anna was known to be very social, outgoing and good at networking. In Europe, the couple kept homes in both the Netherlands and Norway, and William was very fond of paitning Norwegian fjord landscapes. In addition to their contributions to art in Maryland, the couple also made philanthropic gifts to churches, hospitals and towns in the United States, the Netherlands and Norway.

After the death of her husband in 1943, Anna Singer donated enough funds to give the museum in Washington County two new wings in memory of him. These wings were completed in 1949.

In 1952, Anna Singer established the Singer Laren Museum Museum and Theater in Laren, the Netherlands.