Last Updated on March 5, 2023

An eerie moonlight peeks through passing clouds bringing a small beachfront home into view. Sand reflects back the light. Palm fronds sway in the painting at the Harn Museum of Art Gainesville, Florida.

Dark blues, violets, greens and gray capture shadows and an inky night sky.


Is this the calm before or after the storm?

Whichever the case, you’re on your own against forces of nature far greater than man to withstand. Your survival is a matter of luck.

Hurricane in Miami (1927) by Franz Josef Bolinger greets visitors to the Harn Museum of Art Gainesville, Florida Vickers Collection gallery of Florida art. This magnificent painting manages to capture the horror and menace of a hurricane beautifully. It’s mesmerizing. I’ll bet I’ve spent an hour in front of this painting.

In 2021, Jacksonville art collectors Samuel and Roberta Vickers – Florida natives – gifted their collection of Florida art amassed over 40 years to the University of Florida for display, study and preservation; Hurricane in Miami among them.

The Vickers Collection

Harold Newton (1934-1994), Beach Scene, undated. Oil on canvas.
Harold Newton (1934-1994), Beach Scene, undated. Oil on canvas. Vickers Collection Harn Museum of Art Gainesville Florida.

1200 items. 1200 stories.

Every couple years the Harn Museum of Art Gainesville, Florida rotates which paintings from the Vickers Collection are on view to the public. Collectively, they portray a fascinating cross-section of Florida landscapes, development, culture and people from the late 19th through mid-20th century.

Sarasota Circus history. A fishing pier in Bradenton. A trailer park near Bradenton.

A view of Lake Worth. Bait House, Jensen Beach. Silver Springs.

Remains of a Burning Sugar House. A Seminole encampment. Fort Matanzas. Lake Alachua

Old Country Store, Mandarin.

Scenes of Florida past. A historical record written in oil and watercolor.

Many of these paintings were produced by the greatest artists in American history, visitors from elsewhere, proof of Florida’s appeal to tourists and outsiders since the 1800s.

Luis Comfort Tiffany’s (1885) Castillo de San Marcos. Thomas Moran’s (1881) Old Watchtower at St. Augustine.

Earnest Lawson’s (1932) Miami Biltmore. Maxfield Parrish’s (1900) Miami River.

William Glackens (undated) Florida Swamp.

Reynolds Beal’s (1914) Tampa, Florida 1914. With the Hillsborough Riverfront, now the Tampa Riverwalk, and Tampa Bay Hotel, now the Henry B. Plant Museum in the background. What a difference 110 years makes.

Among the remarkable items, N.C. Wyeth’s (1938) original Jody and Flag painting which was reproduced in a 1939 edition of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Pulitzer prize winning novel “The Yearling.” That was a Florida story.

Art and Florida brought together, what I’ve found to be my two great mid-life passions joined.

Marvel at Lawson’s richly colored, elaborately textured (1920) Florida River Scene with Seminoles.

Can you hear the chickens pecking in Marguerite Zorach’s beautiful slice of everyday rural life for African Americans in Mary Eliza’s Cabin, Chipley, Florida 1955? Look for the hogs in the field and the and the sleeping dog.

A.E. Backus’ Road Through the Orange Grove, another favorite.

And one of the best Florida Highwaymen paintings you’ll ever see. Thank you Harold Newton.

What of your Florida will you find in the pictures on the walls from the Vickers Collection? I was married on Fort George Island, setting for a small Moran beach scene from 1880.

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The Harn Museum of Art

The Harn Museum of Art isn’t my favorite Florida art museum, I’ll reveal that at a later time, but the Vickers Collection gallery is my favorite single room in any art museum in Florida. Overall, the Harn Museum of Art is exceptional, with a strong exhibition program and commitment to photography which distinguishes it in state.

The Harn Museum of Art also has collection areas of focus for African Art, Asian Art (one of the best in the southeast), Modern art (keep an eye out for its Monet painting, a nice one) and Contemporary art which is highlighted by a pair of Kehinde Wiley portraits that would take prominent billing at any art museum in the nation.

Harn Museum of Art Gainesville, Florida Hours:

Closed Monday.

Tuesday and Wednesday: 10 am – 5 pm

Thursday: 10 am – 9 pm (always take advantage of late-night hours when you can for uninterrupted ‘alone time’ with art)

Friday and Saturday: 10 am – 5 pm

Sunday: 1 – 5 pm

On the second Thursday of every month, the Harn Museum of Art stays open from 6 – 9 pm for Museum Nights.

The Harn Museum of Art is located on campus next door to the Florida Museum which specializes in natural history.

General admission is free at both. Parking is $5 in a lot fronting the museums.