When you think of a museum, your thoughts probably revolve around scientific, historical, or cultural artifacts. While this is what you’ll find in most museums, Hiram Blauvelt Art Museum is one of a kind. It is one of the most renowned animal art museums in New Jersey. What sets it apart from the rest is that it’s predominantly wildlife art-oriented.
It is home to a variety of animal art that includes sculptures, paintings, and drawings. A high cadre of contemporary artists is behind much of the artwork.
History of the museum
The Hiram Blauvelt Art Museum opened its doors in 1957. It was the first wildlife art museum in New Jersey. The museum was founded by the Blauvelt Demarest Foundation in honor of the late Hiram Blauvelt.
Hiram Blauvelt was a celebrated conservationist who dedicated most of his life to conservation and philanthropy. He was also a collector with a strong interest in big game collections and wildlife art.
Hiram was a widely traveled man who had fought in Africa during the wild war II. This explains where he developed a strong interest in wildlife. The museum was solely founded on his collections that were made up of wildlife art and stuffed animals.
In the early years of the 20th century, people believed that wildlife was bountiful. Some of the famous conservationists like Theodore Roosevelt were active during this period. They collected animal artifacts from their natural habitats. These artifacts were then preserved in museums.
Hiram Blauvelt Art Museum was a beneficiary of some of these incredible pieces that showcased the beauty of wildlife art.
Just like Roosevelt, Hiram Blauvelt made it his mission to preserve his collection so that he could avail to the public. His ultimate goal was to share the adventures he had in the wild as well as educate people about the wonders, beauty, and diversity of wild animals. He would also share some of his most exciting explorations. One of his ambitions was to make the public understand how difficult and important it is to protect the wildlife spectacle and its natural habitat.
When Hiram Blauvelt Art Museum first opened its door to the public, it focused on enlightening youth groups, students and scouts on the value of wildlife conservation. Guest artists made paintings and drawings by observing various specimens of wild animals in the museum.
After 25 years in operation, the board of directors in charge of the museum decided to redesign it. The facelift would only work to reinforce Blauvelt’s artistic foundation.
A group of newfangled artists would go on to create wildlife art for the museum. They would emulate the likes of artists such as Charles Livingstone, who was once a respected resident of Oradell. Additionally, they incorporated the works of Audubon Folio and Carl Rungius that concentrated on the extinctions.
Near the museum is yet another property that’s known as the Atwood-Blauvelt Mansion. This mansion is equally picturesque. It borrows its name from the first and the second owner.
Before Elmer Blauvelt bought this mansion in 1926, it belonged to Kimball Chase Atwood. It sits on a hill and you could easily mistake it for a castle. After the death of Margaret Bellis Blauvelt in 1961 and his son Hiram Blauvelt, this mansion was sold to Raymond Ells. He not only renovated it, but also protected it from a looming demolition. Currently, it’s owned by Care One, but despite all successive changes in ownership, this mansion has housed the Hiram Blauvelt Art Museum and Foundation since 1957.
The museum location and structure
As said earlier, the spectacular Hiram Blauvelt is located in New Jersey, Oradell. It lies along the 705 kinderkamack roads in Bergen County. Once you get to Bergen County, you should head to the Garden State Park –Way, proceed to Exit 165 on Oradell Avenue, then turn left to kinderkamack road, and you’ll find an on-site parking lot.
Hiram Blauvelt Art Museum is housed by an archaic cedar carriage house that was built in 1893 by the finest architect of the time. It is among the 17 remaining buildings of its ilk.
Some renovations and expansions have been done along the way to give this museum its current look. Nonetheless, its architectural design from the 1830s is still evident. Original materials were used for the entire renovation process, and you can rest assured that the museum hasn’t lost its 18th-century aura.
When you get to this museum, you are greeted by a beautiful garden that’s marked by 10 large bronzes. This gives you a hint of what to expect inside.
Part of the sculptured garden includes gigantic oak trees that compliment the old fashioned building.
Inside the museum, there is a large welcoming reception that’s beautifully finished. The museum has numerous galleries and each one of them holds sophisticated animal art. High-quality artwork is strategically mounted on the walls and the gallery rooms are illuminated by carefully chosen artificial lighting, which is supplemented by natural light.
What to expect at the museum
There are two floors of artwork as well as the subject’s portraying them. At the bottom floor, you’ll see various forms of wildlife art. Part of the animal art is made out of the game trophies that were shot by the great Hiram Blauvelt in India, Europe, Asia, North America, and Africa.
You might wonder how the artists in this museum come up with the spectacular animal paintings. Besides drawing what’s already in the museum, artists travel far and wide in search of specific wild animals. Not to hunt wild animals ,but to get a closer look at them, and create incredible pieces of art.
The artists don’t just travel like big-game hunters to take pictures and draw these animals. Some are sculptors who mold sculptures resembling wild animals. As a result of that, you’ll find plenty of mind-blowing wildlife sculptures in this museum, including birds, and the big 5 game animals.
If you have heard of certain wild animals, but never seen them live, the Hiram Blauvelt Art Museum delivers an experience like no other. The art gives you an accurate idea of what some rare wild animals look like.
You can expect unmatched animal taxidermy on the upper floor. That’s one of the collections that make this small museum special. There is a rich exhibit of various animal models that you will enjoy.
Hiram Blauvelt Art Museum artists
In terms of wildlife art, this museum has worked with big names in the industry. These are renowned artists from various parts of the world that have delivered top-notch artwork. However, the museum is keen to work on new projects with new generation artists who like to get close to wild animals and study their body structures. Some of these artists include Albert Earl Gilbert, David Turner, William Turner, and Leslie Delgyer.
The Hiram Blauvelt Art Museum no longer adds on its big game trophies. It now specializes in animal art only.
What makes the Hiram Blauvelt Art Museum special?
There are only a handful of animal art museums across the United States and this is one of them. Moreover, this museum has a rich and rare wildlife art collection that includes stuffed animals, drawings, paintings, and structures.
This breathtaking wildlife museum is also housed in a building with a great history. Adjacent to it is another historic mansion that’s worth looking at. These are rare historic buildings that were constructed in the 18th century but are still standing.
Besides the early pieces of art collected by Hiram Blauvelt, a lot of gifted artists have contributed to its expansion. Each artist adds a unique style to the galleries. This can be seen in each section of the mounted taxidermy as well as the paintings and drawings. Most importantly, these artists are passionate about wildlife conservation.
The art in the museum has evolved significantly and offers a mixture of old and modern animal art.
Another great aspect of this museum is that it’s a non-profit. It relies on donations rather than fees. It also enlightens people on the importance of conserving wild animals in their natural habitats.
Hiram Blauvelt Art Museum operating hours
The Hiram Blauvelt Art Museum is open to the public from 10 am to 4 pm every Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. It is also open from 2 pm to 5 pm on Saturdays and Sundays.
From afar, the museum front door may seem closed. But as long as it’s within the opening hours, you shouldn’t be deterred to ring the bell. One of the attendants will let you in.
The museum doesn’t charge an admission fee, but it encourages a donation to the course. When visiting the museum with a large group, it is necessary to call and make a reservation first.
The museum is small in size, and in just under two hours, you should survey all the galleries without a rush.