Museum History

A Brief History of the founding of Dallas Museum of Art

Taken from the Official Catalogue of the Dallas Art Association, 1909

The Dallas Art Association was organized in 1903 and was a direct outgrowth of the Art Committee of the Public Library. At the suggestion of Frank Reaugh, the well-known Texas artist, an art gallery, properly lighted and arranged, was provided for in the building.

When completed, this room was most attractive, and the late Mr. J. S. Armstrong, himself a member of the building committee, became so interested in procuring pictures for the gallery that he offered to give half of any amount that could be raised for the purpose. Accordingly, the Art Committee of the Dallas Public Library was formed and consisted of the following members:

Mrs. Henry Exall
Mrs. Sidney Smith
Mrs. J. E. Schneider
Mrs. George K. Meyer

The members immediately set to work raising funds for the purchase of pictures of recognized value. In the autumn of 1902, they gave an exhibition in the art gallery that was by far the best collection which had ever been brought to Texas at that time.

These works of art were secured through the influence of the late Mrs. Sidney Smith from the Fair Association, which generously loaned its entire collection to the new gallery. An admission fee of twenty-five cents was charged for the exhibit, and the first person to present herself was Mrs. C. E. Fargo, who paid one dollar for admission, the first dollar collected for the art gallery.

From this collection, two pictures were purchased by the Art Committee, the selection being decided upon by popular vote. The first two pieces purchased by the Art Committee were My Gondolier's Kitchen by Herbert Faulkner and September Moonrise by Childe Hassam. At this time, Frank Reaugh also presented to the gallery one of his best paintings, The Road to the Brazos. Gustave Wolf, of St. Louis, also presented one of his pictures—a landscape—making four fine pictures acquired by the Committee in its first year.

Perhaps no woman in Dallas has ever done for the cause of art what Mrs. Sidney Smith did by her persistent efforts to establish an arts community and by her encouragement of artists. She was esteemed and beloved by all who knew her, and her passing away the next year was a sad affliction to her friends and associates.

Foreseeing the possibilities of the future and feeling the necessity of a closer and larger organization, the Dallas Art Association was formed in 1903 under its own constitution and bylaws, with Mrs. Charles L. Dexter serving as president and the following on the board of trustees:

Mrs. W. H. Abrams
Mrs. J. S. Armstrong
Mrs. A. H. Belo
Mrs. Wm. Charlton
Mrs. S. P. Cochran
Mrs. Geo. B. Dealey
Mrs. Chas. L. Dexter
Mrs. J. W. Everman
Mrs. Henry Exall
Mrs. E. J. Kiest
Mrs. George Noble
Mrs. A. V. Lane
Mrs. Geo. K. Meyer
Mrs. Geo. H. Plowman
Mrs. J. E. Schneider
Mrs. Sidney Smith
Mrs. A. P. Tenison
Miss Ruth DeCapre
Mr. Frank Reaugh
Mr. E. G. Eisenlohr
Mr. Clifton Church

Soon after the organization of the Association, Mrs. Henry Exall presented a check for one thousand dollars from Mrs. A. H. Belo, to be used to further the work of the Association as they might see fit. Closely following this gift came Mr. Armstrong's check for five hundred dollars in fulfillment of his offer made to Mrs. Exall on the completion of the Library building, and with the money came also a renewal of the offer for the coming year.

These two gifts gave the young Association a splendid impetus, and enabled them to purchase several additional pictures. Mr. Clifton Church succeeded Mrs. Dexter as President in 1904, and continued to hold the office until his move to Boston [ca. 1906]. Mr. Church promoted the interests of the Association in every way, striving with the courage of his convictions to create and maintain a standard of art, which had become the most vital factor in the development of the Association.

The Association had one Treasurer, Mrs. E. J. Kiest, who presented the claims of the Association to the financial support of the citizens of Dallas in an incomparable manner. The Association was supported by voluntary membership fees of five dollars each year and gave to its members an annual exhibition of pictures and a lecture by someone recognized as an authority on art. Besides this, the Association gave an occasional social function in honor of some artist or distinguished guest, when the members and friends came together for a better understanding and acquaintance.

The Contract

Until February 1909, the pictures were hung in the gallery at the Public Library, which was open to the public every Saturday afternoon from November to May.

With the completion of the beautiful building at the fairgrounds, negotiations were opened with the city through Mr. Edgar Pike, representing the Park Board, who wished to place the collection there and transfer ownership of the pictures to the city, that they might formally recognize the gallery as a permanent institution and give to the people a more liberal use of the pictures than was possible under the old management.

A contract transferring ownership of the art to the city was signed in March of 1909, and the gallery was formally opened and presented to the city of Dallas in April 1909.

Timeline of Events

1903 The Dallas Art Association (DAA) was founded by a group of 50 citizens at a meeting, Monday, January 19, 1903, at 10:30 a.m. in the Dallas Public Library. The DAA was established to support the visual arts in Dallas, with the goal of creating a permanent art organization.

1903–1909 Exhibitions were held at the Dallas Public Library. In 1904, the DAA hosted its first annual exhibition.

1909 The DAA donated its permanent collection to the City of Dallas and moved to the state fairgrounds into a new arts building, the Free Public Art Gallery of Dallas, the Museum's first official facility.

1915 The DAA held its first large exhibition downtown at the Adolphus Hotel.

1916 The first catalogue of the permanent collection was published.

1925 The Munger Fund was established by Mrs. S. I. Munger with a $50,000 endowment for art acquisitions.

1926 A hailstorm broke the glass roof of the Fair Park Free Public Art Gallery of Dallas in May 1926, but only one painting suffered minor damage as a result.

1927 A city bond issue passed, providing $500,000 in city bonds for building and equipping a new Museum facility.

1928 The DAA started annual exhibitions of work by area artists with the First Annual Allied Arts Exhibition of Dallas.

1929 The DAA moved its art collection to the Majestic Theatre to better protect it from fire and weather conditions until the new Museum building in Fair Park could be used. The first professional director, John S. Ankeney, was hired for the DAA. Ankeney increased the importance of exhibits and the Museum began offering weekly lectures, started a program of children's classes, and sent members a monthly newsletter, Art Notes. Museum membership reached 650.

1930 Museum membership was approximately 700. Director John Ankeney stated, "Nature made Dallas rich, Time will make her powerful, but only Art can make her great."

1933 The name of the Museum was changed from the Free Public Art Gallery of Dallas to the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts (DMFA) on January 13, 1933, and subsequently moved to the ninth floor of the Dallas Power and Light Company building.

1934–1935 The Depression caused the city to cut the Museum's budget to $5,500 per year. City bonds worth $500,000 were sold to build a new Museum facility in Fair Park.

1936 The Texas Centennial was celebrated in Dallas, prompting renovations and additions at Fair Park. The new Museum building opened in Fair Park May 31, 1936. The Centennial Exposition Art Exhibition drew over 154,000 visitors to the Museum from June 6 to November 26, 1936.

1938 The Museum League was established. The League was responsible for providing entertainment such as concerts, printing programs, cataloging books in the library, keeping a clipping bureau, conducting radio programs, cataloging private art collections in Dallas, arranging certain exhibits, hosting children's tours, providing relief lectures for tours, and encouraging membership in the Dallas Art Association.

1939 The DAA hosted its first exhibition devoted exclusively to African-American artists. Museum membership was 746. Although the director, Richard Howard, had been conducting tours since 1936, and education staff were also teaching children's classes for approximately three years, it was not until 1939 that a definitive education department was started. Mrs. Maggie Joe Hogue, the Museum's first Supervisor of Education, started an appreciation tour for children of members of the Art Association and began giving tours to a variety of local clubs that met regularly at the Museum.

1940 Museum membership was approximately 950. The Junior League provided volunteers for the Education Department to help with Saturday classes. The Museum League, comprised of 30 members, held its first annual Hobby Show.

1941 The Museum School of Art was created and began offering classes to children and adults. Such prominent artists as Merritt T. Mauzey, Otis Dozier, Correen Spellman, Octavio Medellin, and David McManaway taught at the Museum school until it closed in June 1970. Adult classes were added to the children's programs. The First Annual Texas Print Exhibition was held.

1942 Members of the Museum League served as hostesses, sold Defense Stamps, held gallery tours, and sponsored free music programs on Sundays at the Museum.

1943 Jerry Bywaters was hired as Director of the DMFA, a position he would keep for 21 years. Under his leadership, the Museum focused primarily on exhibiting regional art. Museum attendance topped 100,000 and the city increased its contribution to almost $27,000.

1944 The Museum Library opened to the public on Sunday, March 12th and consisted of approximately 1,200 art books, 400 prints, color reproductions, art annuals, and current periodicals.

1948 New membership categories were created based on the amount contributed annually to the Museum: Benefactors ($1,000 or more), Honorary (members who placed important collections on indefinite loan to the Museum), Donors ($100–$1,000), Contributing ($50), Sustaining ($25), Participating ($10), and Active ($5). The First Southwestern Exhibition of Prints and Drawings was held. Additional staff was added and attendance reached almost 200,000 for the year.

1949 The Crafts Guild of Dallas cosponsored with the DMFA the First Annual Texas Crafts Exhibition.

1950 The DMFA initiated a weekly television program on WFAA called Is This Art? Exhibitions averaged 40 per year.

1951 The Art Rental Program began which supported local artists and allowed patrons to rent works while considering a purchase.

1955 The Public Affairs Luncheon Club, a local women's group, accused the Museum of exhibiting the work of artists with Communist affiliations. Later that year, on December 7, 1955, the Board of Trustees issued a statement that they would "exhibit and acquire works of art only on the basis of their merit as works of art."

1956 The Society for the Contemporary Arts was founded by a civic group interested in promoting greater appreciation of contemporary art. The society later became the Dallas Museum for Contemporary Arts, directed by Douglas MacAgy (October 1959 – November 2, 1962). The DMFA signed a new contract with the city that formalized operating procedures in existence since 1909.

1960 The McDermott Fund was established by Eugene and Margaret McDermott, supplementing the Munger Fund in significant acquisition endowments.

1962 The Arts of Man an exhibition acclaimed by critics as the most significant accomplishment in the Museum's 60-year history, attracted record attendance. Andrew Wyeth's That Gentleman was purchased by the Museum after a community-wide fundraising effort.

1963 The Dallas Museum for Contemporary Arts (DMCA) merged with the DMFA on May 30, 1963, with both Museums being represented by the name the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts. The boards of the two Museums were also merged, increasing the total number of trustees to 82.

1964 The Foundation for the Arts was established as a holding agency for the former DMCA collection, with the power to solicit funds and acquire art objects to be placed at the disposal of the Museum. Jerry Bywaters resigned as director of the Museum, and was succeeded by Merrill Rueppel. Rueppel supplemented the art collection with important acquisitions in pre-Columbian, ancient, Asian, and contemporary art.

1965 A new two-story wing was added to the Museum building, nearly doubling the exhibition space. Henry Moore visited the Museum after it purchased his Two Piece Reclining Figure, No 3.

1970 The Museum’s Education Committee recommended that the Museum School be discontinued in June 1970 due to overlapping services with other schools in the city, and recommended that a new creative learning program for youth, including free drawing classes, be implemented in its place.

1972 Donors who contributed $500,000 in funds or art were honored as benefactors. Eugene and Margaret McDermott and Algur and Elizabeth Meadows were named the first Lifetime Trustees.

1974 Harry Parker III was named the new director of the DMFA and was very effective at fundraising and increasing membership for the Museum. Parker also spearheaded the construction of the current museum building downtown, designed by architect Edward Larrabee Barnes.

1975 Mrs. John B. O'Hara bequested $4.5 million to the Foundation for the Arts for the purchase of art.

1977 James and Lillian Clark gave Brancusi's Beginning of the World to the Museum.

1979 A city bond election was passed on November 6, 1979 and Dallas voters pledged $24.8 million toward the construction of a new museum building downtown. The exhibition Pompeii A.D. 79 was hosted by the DMFA, breaking attendance records at the Museum and increasing membership levels by 400%.

1980 A program of annual awards to young artists in Texas and the Southwest was made possible by the DeGolyer and Kimbrough funds. A groundbreaking ceremony for the New Museum Building was held November 15, 1980.

1981 Richard Shaffer's art was featured in the DMFA's first Concentrations show, a new series of exhibitions featuring the work of emerging contemporary artists.

1982–1983 Thirty-eight impressionist, post-impressionist and contemporary American paintings and sculptures were donated to the Museum from the collection of Algur H. Meadows and his wife, Elizabeth. Museum staff moved into the new downtown building, and the Sculpture Garden was opened to the public at noon on Monday, October 10, 1983. The Museum commissioned major works of art by Ellsworth Kelly and Claes Oldenburg, among others, to celebrate the new building downtown.

1984 The name was changed to the Dallas Museum of Art. The building was officially opened to the public on January 29, 1984. The first exhibition was of the newly installed permanent collection. New programming included the annual performance series Jazz Under the Stars and a lecture series. Wendy Reves donated her art collection to the Museum. An entire wing devoted to educational programming was unveiled.

1985 The new decorative arts wing, built to house 1,400 objects from the Wendy and Emery Reves Collection, opened Friday, November 29.

1986 The decorative arts collection was substantially augmented by the donation of the Faith P. and Charles L. Bybee Collection of American Furniture. The Museum organized the exhibit Lone Star Regionalism, the first official event of the Texas sesquicentennial. Allen Ginsberg conducted a poetry reading at the Museum.

1987 The Hoblitzelle Foundation donated 550 pieces of British silver to the Museum, along with a collection of old master paintings.

1989 Nancy Hamon donated $20 million toward the construction of a new Museum wing.

1991 Construction began on the addition of the Nancy and Jake L. Hamon Building, designed by Edward Larrabee Barnes. A groundbreaking ceremony was held on May 23, 1991.

1993 The Nancy and Jake L. Hamon Building, a new addition of 140,000 square feet, opened to the public on September 26, 1993.

1995 The Museum League published The Artful Table cookbook.

1996 The third floor of the Museum, featuring the arts of Africa, Asia, and the Pacific, was completely refurbished and opened in 1996. The Searching for Ancient Egypt exhibition opened and was one of the most well attended exhibitions in 15 years. The Education Department began an adult lecture series with SMU's Master of Liberal Arts degree program, and partnered with UT Austin to create a special lecture series, Art and the Domestic Sphere. Attendance for adult programs increased 20% over the previous year. The Education Department piloted a groundbreaking interactive computer program, The Art of Looking, which enabled fifth graders in Dallas to experience a virtual "first visit" to the Museum. New credit courses for teachers were added to the ongoing teacher programs and the first interdisciplinary seminar was started, Exploring World Cultures: The Art and Writing of Africa, Asia, and the Pacific. The library unveiled its online public access catalog. Museum membership grew to 19,537 members. The Chairman's Circle was established as a new level of membership.

1999 John R. (Jack) Lane became the director of the Dallas Museum of Art. The Museum received an $11 million benefaction from an anonymous donor, the largest single gift in its history specifically for the advancement of programs.

2000 Construction began on the Nasher Sculpture Center.

2001The Museum began charging admission October 2, 2001.

2003 The Dallas Museum of Art marked its 100th birthday January 19, 2003, and celebrated by remaining open for 100 continuous hours with 45,000 visitors in attendance January 8–12, 2003 (10 a.m. Wednesday to 5 p.m. Sunday). The Museum’s mission statement was redefined and a new graphic identity was launched. The Flora Street Entrance was redesigned by Gluckman Mayner Architects; groundbreaking took place May 9, 2003 and continued through September. A family programs mascot, Arturo, was introduced whose design was based on a vessel from the ancient American collection.

Additional anniversaries celebrated in 2003 included Jazz Under the Stars – 20th anniversary; the Hamon building expansion – 10th anniversary; the Dallas Museum of Art Sculpture Garden opening – 20th anniversary. The Museum welcomed the Nasher Sculpture Center to the Arts District with an opening on October 19, 2003.

2004 Late Nights programming began with an all-night Late Night Kick-off Party January 23, 2004 and the Museum commemorated the 20th anniversary of moving to the Arts District; Edward Larrabee Barnes, architect for the current Museum’s location, died September 21, 2004; The contemporary gallery reopened in December after renovation by Gluckman Mayner Architects.

2005 On February 16, unprecedented bequests of private collections (Hoffman, Rachofsky, Rose and a Monet from the McDermott collection) were announced; galleries were named for donors Hanley, Stoffel, Lamont, and Rachofsky in November; the Wendy and Emery Reves Collection celebrated its 20th anniversary on November 29. Groundbreaking ceremonies were held for the Dallas’s new AT&T Performing Arts Center in November (scheduled to open October 12, 2009).

2006 The Museum named Harry S. Parker III Director Emeritus on January 23; Bonnie Pitman was named to the American Association of Museums Centennial Honor Roll on May 8.

2007 In February the Museum celebrated the 20th anniversary of The Hoblitzelle Foundation gift; on May 4 the Museum was awarded a grant from the Meadows Foundation of $4.38 million and on May 5 it was announced that The Allen & Kelli Questrom Foundation made a five-year, $2.825 million grant in support of its educational mission; on December 19 the Dallas Museum of Art announced its highest attendance ever for a fiscal year (October 2006–September 2007) with 641,000 visitors.

2008 Bonnie Pitman became The Eugene McDermott Director on June 1 after the retirement of Director John R. Lane on May 31; Dr. Lane was named Director Emeritus; the Center for Creative Connections opened with free admission for their first weekend on May 3-4, 2008; programming anniversaries included the 25th anniversary season of the Jazz Under the Stars series (beginning May 22), 25th anniversary of the “Thursday Night Live!” series, 15th season of the Boshell Family Lecture Series on Archaeology (in November); 2008–2009 marked the 27th season of the Bancroft Family Concerts presented by the Fine Arts Chamber Players since its inauguration in 1981 and the 17th anniversary of Arts and Letters Live which began in 1992.

Arts District celebrations included the 10th anniversary of the opening of the Trammel and Margaret Crow Collection of Asian Art (opening Saturday, December 5, 1998) and the Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts (a DISD magnet school) reopening in April after a major renovation and expansion.

2009 Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs completed its run at the Dallas Museum of Art as the most popular exhibition in the Museum’s history, drawing 664,000 ticketholders since its October 2008 opening. Additionally, the Museum reached a historic high in attendance, welcoming for the first time more than one million visitors to date in the 2009 fiscal year. 
The Museum celebrated 25 years in the Dallas Arts District. The AT&T Performing Arts Center opened, completing the Dallas Arts District and making it the largest urban arts district in the United States. The Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center, designed by I. M. Pei, marked its 20th anniversary in September. The Arts of Africa at the Dallas Museum of Art, the first catalogue featuring African art objects in the collection is published, coinciding with the 40th anniversary of the acclaimed collection.

2010 A Framework for Engaging with Art, a groundbreaking seven-year study providing an unprecedented understanding of the preferences and behaviors of museum visitors, was completed. The research was published in Ignite the Power of Art: Advancing Visitor Engagement in Museum Experiences. The Museum celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Wendy and Emery Reves Collection. The collection, received in 1985 from the Wendy & Emery Reves Foundation, Inc., contains over 1,400 works from the private art collection of Emery Reves, including impressionist, post-impressionist, and modern paintings, sculptures, and works on paper, and decorative arts objects.

2012 Dr. Maxwell L. Anderson becomes The Eugene McDermott Director on January 9, 2012. The Laboratory for Museum Innovation is established to test and develop digital projects, pioneering new ways of engaging Museum audiences and enriching visitor experience at the DMA and within the broader museum community. The DMX (Dallas Museum Exchange) program, designed to establish international collaborations for the loan of works of art and sharing of expertise in conservation, exhibitions, education, and new media, is launched.

2013 The Museum returns to free general admission on January 21, 2013. The DMA Friends & Partners program, an innovative new membership model, is launched. The program emphasizes visitor engagement and participation and is designed to build long-term relationships with visitors. The first catalogue of South and Southeast Asian art in the DMA's collection is published. The Arts of India, Southeast Asia, and the Himalayas explores over 450 works of art in the Museum's collection acquired over nearly sixty years of collecting. The Marguerite and Robert Hoffman Fund for European Art Before 1700 was established with a $17 million gift from Marguerite Steed Hoffman. The fund was conceived to expand and enhance the Museum's collection of European art, primarily of the Renaissance and Baroque eras.