Wandering through History at the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art

The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art

ring from air
picture from museum website

Anyone who has spent any time in the area of Sarasota, Florida knows that it’s art community whether big or small means a lot to the town. The town’s art, artists, galleries and museums are celebrated and shown off. Unlike some towns, where it’s shoved down visitors (and locals) throats in an effort to make the town seem smarter and more artsy than what it is (Grand Rapids Michigan). In Sarasota, the cornerstone of this coastal towns beating art heart is the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art.

A little History

When you pull into the property a long, beautiful building that is itself a piece of art as much as the art that it holds stretches out in front of you with the colors that scream SW Florida. Much of the art inside is religious in nature and takes you on a journey through some of the most influential periods of art such as Baroque (A Ringling favorite), Impressionism and Renaissance among others. It holds pieces from artists such as Velazquez, El Greco, Van Dyke, Veronese, Tiepolo, Gainsborough and a few tapestry paintings by Rubens. It also has a very nice and growing display of modern art. The Museum itself is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. After being overseen by several directors who improved and grew the museum after Ringling’s death it was passed to FSU (Florida State University) in 2000. The university is investing a lot of money into making this a premier center for art and art education and also a show piece for the town of Sarasota.


The Ringling’s were big lovers of art, both supporting it and acquiring it largely in Europe in the 1920’s. Mable Ringling was an integral part of developing the town’s artistic tastes and her family basically made the town into what we see now. The building was built by John Ringling as a love letter of sorts to Florida and its art community. These endeavors also put the Ringling’s into perilous debt causing the museum to languish for a while after his death. The Museum grounds hold much more than just the Art Museum but also  theCircus Museum (link to my post on that below), Ca’D’Zan (The former Ringling home), The Historic Asolo Theater, Bayfront Gardens and one of the best Art Libraries in the USA.



I will admit I don’t know a lot about the intricacies of art but I appreciate it nonetheless. You can’t not appreciate something as beautiful as art even if you don’t always understand it. On this most recent trip to the museum I was lucky enough to have Stacey with me. She is studying art studying art in school and knew a lot about what we were seeing. Between her explaining to me what certain paintings meant and why they represented certain periods and styles and occasionally over hearing what the docents were saying as they guided tour groups I learned a lot and enjoyed myself.


As always I am drawn to the landscape paintings since I am a nature guy and have my favorites in the museum. I always love coming to this museum because I never feel rushed like I do when I go to Art Institute in Chicago as nice as that is. I can sit and appreciate the art and not feel like a tourist who needs to hurry along. I will say there is something sexy about seeing your love stare at a painting and study it. This was the first time Stacey had been here and maybe that was what made this visit most enjoyable as I was able to see her experience it for the first time. This could be why I didn’t take many pictures on this recent trip to the museum since i was busy enjoying my time there with her.


The building is a U-shaped one and has a massive and gorgeous courtyard in the middle filled with statues of Roman and Greek gods. The central piece in the courtyard is bronze cast of Michelangelo’s David from Plazzo Vecchio in Florence. This impressive piece towers over the courtyard and sits on stone risen walkway so visitors can get a clear view of the courtyard.



This is one of the most beautiful gardens I have ever been to and could sit there for hours. I just feel inspired every time I go there; how can one not feel inspired with the great gods of old starting down at you. The museum also offers this space for weddings and if you look at pictures how awesome would that be.

IMG_20140307_130419_091-001 IMG_20140307_130544_971-001


If you enjoy art and happen to be down in Sarasota/Tampa area this is a must visit. The museum offers guided and self-guided tours. They also offer private tours beginning at 100.00 and must be made 2 weeks in advance. Even if you are not an “art person” you will love this The Ringling Museum of Art and the property as a whole anyways. It is is wonderful way to spend a day or 2 and a romantic way to spend a day with someone you love.




Open daily from 10am-5pm


Adult: $25.00

Senior: $20.00

Student 18+ with ID $5.00




Check out my previous post on the Ringling Circus Museum



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