Denver’s Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art

Pictured with museum director Hugh Grant”]Pictured with museum curator Hugh Grant

The building that houses Denver's Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art is bringing in the New Year at over 100 years old. The 1911 arts and crafts style building was the studio and art school of Vance Kirkland. Today the museum still displays the studio where he once thrived, his art and plenty of other collections for your viewing pleasure. It is the oldest commercial art building in Denver and the second oldest in Colorado.Vance Kirkland moved to Colorado to be the founding director of the current University of Denver School of Art. He eventually left to open his own art school in 1932 in the same building the museum sits in today, which also served as his studio. Kirkland continued to work on extraordinary masterpieces in the space until his death in 1981. After his passing, who better to inherit the estate and the thousands hundreds of paintings than family friend Hugh Grant. Grant says he saw Kirkland as more than a mentor also a father figure. Turning the space into a museum was not an instant decision but undoubtedly a miraculous one.Grant knew there was something that needed to live on in Kirkland’s art. He traveled the world with Kirklands canvases that have been appreciated at art shows across Europe, including in Saint Petersburg and Vienna. He admits that because Kirkland's art was so well received in other countries it would make them heroes here. But it took a lot more pushing than he anticipated. Hard work paid off and the art is now shown in the Denver Art Museum and the Ellie Caulkins Opera House.THE EXPANDING UNIVERSE, 1959, by Vance Kirkland (1904-1981), oil paint and water on linen, Collection Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art

The idea to open a museum sparked and by 2003 the doors to Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art were open. Before the museum opened, Grant laid out plans for an addition to the building that doubled its size to make space for all the remarkable art you will find inside.

You will discover energetic and thought provoking paintings of Vance Kirkland. His imaginative mind mastered everything from realism, surrealism and abstract expressionism. Also remembered for his unique way of using watercolor paintings, Vance Kirkland’s style is said to be exceptional and unusual from art critics. His paintings were inspired by everything from everyday events, his sense of humor to serious world issues. Regardless, they always have an edge.

There is also an International Decorative Arts Collection highlighting art movements from art nouveau, arts and crafts and art deco. “There is no hope for the satisfied curator,” Grant says. You will see this is true as you study the more than 4,000 pieces displayed from 39 countries. Everything from furniture, phones, metalware and ceramics can be enjoyed.

The third collection represents well over 100 Colorado artists. Often times people associate Colorado with a Western style art but the museum proves the Centennial State also has a strong presence in modern art.

The museum gains popularity each year. In its opening year 1,400 people explored the collection. In 2011 nearly 14,000 people came through the doors. It is hard to take everything in on one tour. Lucky for us the museum offers several tours in architecture, furniture and design because there is too much to share! 

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For more information on tours and the museum please visit


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