Dallas Museum of Art

The museum's history began with the establishment in 1903 of the Dallas Art Association, which initially exhibited paintings in the Dallas Public Library. Frank Reaugh, a Texas artist, saw in the new library the opportunity to display works of art. This idea was championed by May Dickson Exall, who was the first president of the Dallas Public Library. Her intention was the following: “to offer art interest and education through exhibitions and lectures, to form a permanent collection, to sponsor the work of local artists, to solicit support of the arts from individuals and businesses, and to honor citizens who support the arts.”

The museum’s collections started growing from this moment on. It soon became necessary to find a new permanent home. The museum, renamed the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts in 1932, relocated to a new art deco facility within Fair Park in 1936, on the occasion of the Texas Centennial Exposition. This new facility was designed by a consortium of Dallas architects in consultation with Paul Cret of Philadelphia. It is still possible to visit this building.

In 1943, Jerry Bywaters became the director of the museum, a position he held for the next twenty-one years. Artist, art critic, and teacher, Bywaters gave a sense of identity and community to the museum. Gustave Courbet, Fox in the Snow, 1860 Under Bywaters' tenure, impressionist, abstract, and contemporary masterpieces were acquired and the Texas identity of the museum was emphasized. This identity is today represented by works by Alexandre Hogue, Olin Herman Travis, Bywaters himself, and others.

In 1963, the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts merged with the Dallas Museum of Contemporary Art, whose director for the previous four years had been Douglas MacAgy. In 1964 Merrill C. Rueppel became the director of the newly merged Museum. The permanent collections of the two museums were then housed within the DMFA facility, suddenly holding significant works by Paul Gauguin, Odilon Redon, Henri Matisse, Piet Mondrian, Gerald Murphy, and Francis Bacon. In 1965, the museum held an exhibition called The Art of Piet Mondrian and one entitled Sculpture: Twentieth Century.

By the late 1970s, the greatly enlarged permanent collection and the ambitious exhibition program fostered a need for a new museum facility. Under Harry Parker’s direction, the museum was able to move once again, to its current venue, at the northern edge of the city’s business district (the now designated Dallas Arts District). The $54 million facility, designed by New York architect Edward Larrabee Barnes, was financed by a 1979 City bond election, together with private donations. The project was galvanized by the slogan “A Great City Deserves a Great Museum,” and the new building opened in January 1984.

The Keir Collection Gallery presents a selection of masterworks of Islamic art from the Keir Collection, now on long-term loan to the Dallas Museum of Art. Ranking among the finest private collections of Islamic art in the world, the collection is particularly strong in Islamic ceramics, encompassing almost the whole range of innovations in ceramic design and technology from the 8th to the 19th century. The collection also includes fascinating examples of medieval Islamic metalwork, including a bronze ewer with silver inlay made for a Christian monastery in Mosul, Iraq, by famed artisan Ahmad al-Dhaki al-Mawsili. Perhaps the most emblematic object in the Keir Collection is a 10th-century rock crystal ewer (pitcher) made for a Fatimid caliph in Cairo from a single, massive quartz crystal. It has gold enameled mounts added by French jeweler Jean-Valentin Morel in the late 19th century.

Every four months, the presentation is refreshed with a new selection of rare manuscripts, book paintings, textiles, carpets, and other organic materials. This practice helps conserve delicate, centuries-old materials by limiting their exposure to the effects of light. Works of art by contemporary artists from the Islamic world are also displayed in rotation from time to time.