School of Arts and Humanities News

Barrett Collection Gift Expands Canvas for University’s Art Aspirations

Caspar Wolf’s View Across Lake Seeberg to the Muntigalm is part of the Barrett Collection, considered to be the largest and finest private collection of Swiss art ever formed.

Caspar Wolf’s View Across Lake Seeberg to the Muntigalm is part of the Barrett Collection, considered to be the largest and finest private collection of Swiss art ever formed.

The University of Texas at Dallas (UTD) announced the gift to the University of the Barrett Collection, consisting of over 400 works of Swiss art. It is the single-largest donation ever made to UTD as well as the largest gift of art to any school in The University of Texas System. This unparalleled collection of paintings, sculpture, drawings and prints is the only definitive collection of Swiss art outside of Switzerland and is considered the largest and finest private collection of Swiss art ever formed. With works dating from the late 14th through the mid-20th century, the Barrett Collection includes important pieces by every major artist born in Switzerland, from Caspar Wolf (1735-1783), the first painter of the Swiss Alps, to Cuno Amiet (1868-1961).

Recognized for its excellence in science, engineering and business, UTD has recently placed greater emphasis on the arts. With the creation of the Edith O’Donnell Institute of Art History in 2014, the University has fostered innovative research and graduate education in the history of art, embracing a global history of art that ranges across geography, chronology and medium. The gift of the Barrett Collection, which will be housed in a new Barrett Museum to be built on campus, will extend the vision for the O’Donnell Institute, attracting new scholars and expanding the role of the arts across the University.

“The arts are an essential facet of any great university,” said Dr. Richard C. Benson, president of UTD. “I am grateful to the Barretts for this generous gift, which will catalyze the development of arts programs at the O’Donnell Institute at UTD and provide our students with direct access to an extraordinary collection.”

The collection was started in the 1990s by Dallas residents Nona and Richard Barrett. As a result of extensive travel in the country, they realized early on that, outside of Switzerland, Swiss art was widely unknown, underappreciated and undervalued. After an early visit to the collection of Mme. Monique Barbier-Mueller in Geneva, they made their first acquisition at Art Basel of a painting by Ferdinand Hodler. Relying on knowledge gleaned through research and their rapidly developing private library, along with guidance from curators, dealers and art historians, the Barretts have become the most knowledgeable American collectors of Swiss art of the past two generations. This has enabled them to build the present collection, often acquiring works before they reach the market. Since Nona’s death in 2014, Richard and his present wife, Luba, have continued to expand the collection.

“We have benefited so much from our city of Dallas and are glad to have an opportunity to give something back. Our wish is for our collection to remain intact and have a permanent, public home in our own city as well as in Texas. The building of the Barrett Museum on the UTD campus not only will achieve that, but will enable the collection to continue to grow through future support from the Barrett Collection Foundation,” said Richard Barrett. “Our dearest hope is that this gift will enhance the cultural fabric of this fine university.”

Noted both for its completeness and the depth of holdings of works by the most important Swiss-born artists, the Barrett Collection has drawn the attention of art historians, curators, and museum directors from around the globe. Works from the collection have been on view at major art institutions internationally, including the Tate Britain, Kunsthaus Zurich, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Musée d’Orsay, among others. Representative works in the collection include:

  • Swiss Carnation Master, Hubert and St. Catherine of Alexandria, c. 1490, oil on panel
  • Jean-Etienne Liotard, Portrait of the Empress Maria Theresa, 1762, pastel on vellum
  • Caspar Wolf, View Across Lake Seeberg to the Muntigalm, 1778, oil on canvas
  • Johann Heinrich Füssli, The Expulsion from Paradise, 1803-05, oil on canvas
  • Angelika Kauffmann, Ulysses on the Island of Circe, 1793, oil on canvas
  • Arnold Böcklin, Loneliness, 1875, oil on canvas
  • Alexandre Calame, Vue du Handeck, c. 1837, oil on canvas
  • Ferdinand Hodler, Landscape with Rhythmic Shapes, 1908, oil on canvas and Woman with Flowers (The Song), 1909, oil on canvas
  • Felix Vallotton, Femme au Miroir, 1909, oil on canvas
  • Cuno Amiet, Self-Portrait, 1921, oil on canvas and Portrait of Anne Amiet with Red Background, 1913, oil on canvas
  • Giovanni Giacometti, Bagnanti (Alberto and Diego), 1919, oil on canvas
  • Augusto Giacometti, Amaryllis, 1942, oil on canvas

Dr. Richard Brettell, a scholar of modern painting and founding director of the O’Donnell Institute, has known the collection since its inception. He has worked closely with the Barretts to develop plans for the museum, which will be unique in the world outside Switzerland.

“The creation of a museum with a collection of this breadth and depth of Swiss art at its core is unprecedented in the United States. But bringing this collection to a major research university makes the significance of the gift even greater,” Brettell said. “The focus and range of the Barrett Collection will spark many new dissertations, articles and books written by our graduate students and faculty.”

In addition to the works currently in the collection, UTD will also receive funding from the Barrett Collection Foundation for future acquisitions, including works by post-World War II and contemporary Swiss artists.

To read more, including about the Barrett collection, visit the original article on the UTD News Center.