Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Kind of Makes You Want to Visit Houston

I'm going to Houston tomorrow for a meeting, so I thought I'd highlight the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston briefly. Next stop is Las Vegas and then Northwest Arkansas, later in October.

What began in 1900 as a the Houston Public School Art League for the "encouragement of art and culture in the public school system," as turned into one of America's premier Art Centers. In 1924, the original MFAH building, designed by William Ward Watkin, opened its doors to the public, becoming the first art museum building in Texas and the third in the South. Later, in 1939, Miss Ima Hogg began to donate her extensive collections of Native American art, Frederic Remington paintings, and avant-garde European prints and drawings. Five years later, Edith and Percy Straus bequeath 87 paintings, sculptures, and works on paper, including Italian Renaissance masterpieces. By 1947, Sarah Campbell Blaffer begins donating major gifts of art, including paintings by Paul C├ęzanne and Edgar Degas.

Pablo Picasso's "Two Women Standing in Front of a Window," 1927.

A new era begins for the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, when The Robert Lee Blaffer Memorial Wing, designed by Kenneth Franzheim, opens, and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe is hired to design a 25-year master plan for the museum.

Just a few short years later, Miss Ima Hogg donates her 28-room home, Bayou Bend including the 14 acres of gardens, and her esteemed collection of American decorative arts and paintings.

Funded by Nina Cullinan and designed by Mies van der Rohe, Cullinan Hall opens in 1958, and the next 20 years see a wealth of diverse masterpieces added to the collections including: 23 Renaissance and Baroque paintings, a classical Roman bronze, Jackson Pollock's Number 6, and Pablo Picasso's "Two Women in Front of a Window."

The last 25 years have seen an exponential growth for the center. 1986 saw the opening of the Lillie and Hugh Roy Cullen Sculpture Garden, in 1991,Harris Masterson III and his wife, Carroll Sterling Masterson, donated their 4.5-acre estate, Rienzi, establishing a European decorative arts center at the museum, and just a year later the MFAH commissions Rafael Moneo to design the Audrey Jones Beck Building, and opens the Rosine Building, a 40,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility for archives, art storage, and conservation. Three years later, in 1994, the new Central Administration and Glassell Junior School of Art Building opens, designed by Carlos Jimenez Architectural Design Studios.

With the acquisition of 18 works by Jackson Pollock,in 1996, the MFAH becomes the repository of the second-largest collection of the artist's work in the world. The center also has one of the most extensive collections of works by Jasper Johns in the world.

Alfred C. Glassell, Jr., donates his world-renowned collection of African gold to the museum in 1997, and a year later Audrey Jones Beck donated 47 Impressionist and Post-Impressionist masterpieces.

By the turn of the Century, the MFAH permanent collection numbers more than 40,000 works of art, and ranks as the fifth largest exhibit space in the United States. Two years later the Center acquires Manfred Heiting's extraordinary collection of approximately 4,000 photographs by world-renowned photographers.

Highlights of 2003 include the first exhibition of the visionary quilts made by self-taught artists in Gee's Bend, Alabama; MFAH serves as the only U.S. venue for an ancient art exhibition from Afghanistan; develops the first U.S. exhibition of French masterworks from the State Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow; and conceives the first U.S. retrospective of the history of Japanese photography. Also, Life Trustee Lee Jamail, and her husband, Joe, donate The Indian Triumph of Dionysus, a spectacular Roman sarcophagus from the late second century, in honor of Life Trustee Caroline Wiess Law.

The next year saw a bequest to the museum made by MFAH Life Trustee Caroline Wiess Law, which added an important group of 20th -century works to the museum's collection. The artists represented include many of the most important names in modern and contemporary art: Alexander Archipenko, Jean Arp, Lucio Fontana, Arshile Gorky, Adolph Gottlieb, Philip Guston, Hans Hofmann, Franz Kline, Willem de Kooning, Roy Lichtenstein, Joan Mir, Joan Mitchell, Robert Motherwell, Pablo Picasso, Mark Rothko, Clyfford Still, and Andy Warhol. Through the generosity of numerous of the museum's friends and Trustees, as well as several local foundations, Rembrandt van Rijn's vivid oil painting Portrait of a Young Woman was added to the museum's collection as well.

For more information on this incredible arts center, visit the MFAH website .


Anonymous said...

Hi there. It was nice to know about the Museum of Fine Arts. Thanks for the tour. Houston is a great place. Hope you have a great time there. Decorative Arts said...

Thanks for your comment Archie. While travel stories are less common on our blog, we love it when we have them to share.

My best, Ruth