Skip to main content
Stanford University
Object Lessons: Art & Its Histories
Ongoing Exhibition

Object Lessons: Art & Its Histories

Portrait of Sally Fairchild

John Singer Sargent (U.S.A., 1856–1925), Portrait of Sally Fairchild, 1884-1887.  Oil on canvas.  Gift of Dr. Herbert and Elizabeth Sussman, David and Valerie Rucker, Dr. Stephen Sussman and Kelly Watson, Eric and Nancy Sussman, and Dean and Chiara Sussman, 2012.1

Gallery for Early European Art
Marie Stauffer Sigall Gallery
Oshman Family Gallery
Robert Mondavi Family Gallery

The Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University is delighted to announce the most significant reinstallation of the museum’s second floor in more than fifteen years. This project is born of sustained collaboration between Stanford faculty and museum curators, who together have thought seriously about the tremendous value of learning about art objects through firsthand study.

At Stanford, the arts and sciences comingle productively: In classrooms, labs, studios, and offices across campus, pioneering thinkers—in the sciences and technology, as well as in the arts and humanities—are proposing innovative takes on historical phenomena and advancing new understandings of the human condition. Drawing inspiration from and building on this energy, the museum is proud to foster engaging encounters with works of art that reveal fresh insights on the world around us and the experiences and expressions that bind past and present.

Alison Gass, the Cantor’s former chief curator and associate director for exhibitions and collections, said that the museum’s interdisciplinary approach will be on full view in Object Lessons: Art & Its Histories and a series of focused exhibitions titled New to the Cantor. “Steeped in the awareness that all art objects were once contemporary and reflect the context of their creation, these presentations are dedicated to the examination of artworks as revelatory primary sources,” Gass explained. “Across the museum, familiar favorites and never-before-seen objects promise to provoke new discussions

Object Lessons: Art & Its Histories
Spanning the history of Western art from antiquity to the mid-20th century, the first iteration of Object Lessons: Art & Its Histories embodies our belief in the power of close looking and demonstrates the museum’s deep commitment to academic engagement and teaching through objects. The exhibition is organized around the curriculum of Introduction to the Visual Arts, a two-part survey course led by professors Bissera Pentcheva and Alexander Nemerov, who will convene weekly sections in the museum’s galleries. Building on their expertise and teaching priorities (along with those of additional faculty members, Nancy K. Troy and Jody Maxmin), the exhibition’s layout and interpretive texts reflect a combination of faculty ideas and those of Cantor curators, demonstrating the benefits of bringing multiple voices and approaches to thinking about art. Object Lessons invites all museum visitors to be part of a great classroom, in which questions and dialogue are welcome and there is freedom to challenge assumptions about the world in which we live.

The gallery for early European art presents antiquities from Egypt, Greece and Rome, plus a selection of European religious paintings and sculpture dating from the 13th to the 16th centuries. Highlights include a focused installation titled Hidden Elements: Two Greek Vases Reveal Their Stories, based on new research directed by the Cantor’s Art + Science Learning Lab. The display uses digital interactive stations to explore findings generated by conservators, Stanford students, and materials scientists in consultation with Professor Jody Maxmin, a specialist in the arts of the Classical world. The Robert Mondavi Family Gallery, meanwhile, showcases European paintings from the Cantor’s permanent collection dating from the late-16th century to the late-19th century.

Continuing the chronological progression of Object Lessons, the Marie Stauffer Sigall Gallery features paintings, and sculptures and works on created between the late-19th and the mid-20th centuries. The installation explores the ways in which modernists working in Europe and the United States employed traditional subject matter—landscapes, cityscapes, still lifes and portraits—in their campaigns to create radical new modes of picture making in the modern age. Professor Nancy K. Troy, an expert in European and American Modernism, has been a vital partner in developing this section of Object Lessons, and key works on view will be studied in her graduate seminar Cubism: Theory, Practice, History and undergraduate lecture course Modernism and Modernity.

This reinstallation of the Cantor’s major galleries, developed in close partnership with the Stanford faculty, celebrates the museum’s commitment to thinking critically about art objects and pushing at the boundaries of what is possible at a 21st-century university art museum. The revitalized museum galleries are open both physically—offering long sightlines that elucidate visual and thematic connections across the history of art—and intellectually, allowing space within the galleries for teaching and talking. The new constellation of objects on view sparks fresh discoveries within the museum’s collection while also better elaborating the multiple histories that can be told through the museum’s holdings.

This exhibition is organized by the Cantor Arts Center and is presented in conjunction with the course Art 1: Introduction to the Visual Arts. We gratefully acknowledge support from the Theodore and Frances Geballe Pre-19th Century Art Exhibition Fund, the Clumeck Endowment Fund, and the Loughlin Family Exhibition Fund.

This exhibition is organized by the Cantor Arts Center and is presented in conjunction with the course Art 1: Introduction to the Visual Arts. We gratefully acknowledge support from the Theodore and Frances Geballe Pre-19th Century Art Exhibition Fund, the Clumeck Endowment Fund, and the Loughlin Family Exhibition Fund.

Museum Hours

Although the museum is temporarily closed, our digital doors are always open.

Visit Museums From Home to enjoy Stanford art museums from home.

Welcome to Museums From Home

Map and Directions

The Cantor Arts Center is located at the intersection of Museum Way and Lomita Drive in the heart of the arts district on the Stanford campus. The Cantor faces the Bing Concert Hall across Palm Drive, northwest of The Oval and the Main Quad.

328 Lomita Drive at Museum Way
Stanford, CA 94305-5060

Google Map


Parking is limited. Visitor parking is available on Lomita Drive and in a nearby parking structure at Roth Way and Campus Drive. On weekdays until 4PM visitors may use marked, metered spots. On weekdays after 4PM and all day on weekends, visitor parking is free and visitors may also use A and C permit spaces.

Parking Rates and Map