Edith O’Donnell, longtime visionary and patroness of the arts and education, has made a contribution of $17 million to create the Edith O’Donnell Institute of Art History. The purpose of the investment is to elevate art history at UT Dallas to a nationally pre-eminent stature.
“UT Dallas excels in science and engineering. The moment is right to build a program of the same quality and rigor in art history,” O’Donnell said. “There is a natural affinity between science and the arts. UT Dallas founders Erik Jonsson, Eugene McDermott and Cecil Green actively supported the arts. Now, I look forward to seeing what the future holds for art history, UTD-style.”
Dr. David E. Daniel, president of UT Dallas, said, “The University extends its sincerest thanks and grateful appreciation to Edith O’Donnell. Her dedication to preserving and expanding the knowledge of art throughout the world inspires the creation of this institute.”
Dr. Richard R. Brettell will lead the stand-alone institute as the first Director and Edith O’Donnell Distinguished Chair. He will also serve as a vice provost, reporting to Dr. Hobson Wildenthal, executive vice president and provost.
Brettell, a professor of art and aesthetic studies who also holds the Margaret M. McDermott Distinguished Chair of Art and Aesthetic Studies in the School of Arts and Humanities, said, “Mrs. O’Donnell has made it clear that what interested her about funding art history at UT Dallas was our strength in the sciences, technology and management, thus creating the conditions that could foster a wholly new kind of art history.
“With art historians on campus who study the intersections between art and cartography, art and biology, and art history in the context of big data, UT Dallas has demonstrated a willingness to think about art and about history in new ways,” Brettell said.
O’Donnell said she recognizes that outstanding faculty and students are critical to the institute’s success. Her $17 million lead gift will endow Brettell’s position at the institute, four O’Donnell Distinguished Chairs, 10 O’Donnell Graduate Research Fellowships, and a research and program fund. The institute will provide support for conferences, research travel, and visiting faculty and lecturers.
The institute’s campus offices will be in the new Edith O’Donnell Arts and Technology Building, a 155,000-square-foot facility that houses programs in arts and technology, visual arts, emerging media and communications, as well as a 1,200-seat lecture hall.
“The Edith O’Donnell Institute of Art History will be the first such institute formed in the digital age,” Brettell said. “It will work with the distinguished older institutes” in New York (The Institute of Fine Arts), London (The Courtauld Institute of Art History) and Munich (The Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte) as well as the research institutes at the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Clark Art Institute and the National Gallery of Art, Washington, Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, and “will add a truly 21st-century dimension to the study of art history.”
The institute also will strengthen UT Dallas’ ties to area art museums. The Dallas Museum of Art and the Amon Carter Museum of American Art are working with UT Dallas on a partnership in conservation science. This partnership provides the museums with an opportunity to collaborate with UT Dallas scientists. Using state-of-the-art equipment, they will undertake long-term research projects focused on new scientific techniques and technologies to study artists’ materials. One of the new Edith O’Donnell Chairs will be dedicated to conservation science.
“We are very excited by the opportunity to collaborate with the Edith O’Donnell Institute of Art History and its director, Dr. Rick Brettell, to foster a better understanding of the creativity and history embedded in the visual arts,” said Maxwell L. Anderson, the Eugene McDermott Director of the Dallas Museum of Art.
“The 22,000 works of art in our city’s encyclopedic museum will provide a laboratory for scholars from around the world participating in the life of this new institute. The DMA’s emerging strengths in both technology platforms and scientific research of our collections will also prove to be a fitting complement to the compelling vision articulated by Mrs. O’Donnell and by Dr. Brettell.”
Jeremy Strick, director of the Nasher Sculpture Center, said that the gift “represents a major step in advancing Dallas as an international center for the visual arts.
“Cementing existing programs, bringing new art historical talent to Dallas and fostering interdisciplinary research and institutional collaborations, the Edith O’Donnell Institute of Art History promises to be transformative not only of the arts in Dallas, but also of the field of art historical studies,” he said.
Existing programs that will be affiliated with the institute include the Center for the Interdisciplinary Study of Museums, the Conservation Science Initiatives in partnership with the DMA and Amon Carter Museum, the DFW Art History Network and the Texas Fund for Curatorial Research.
Other affiliated museums and projects include the Census of French Sculpture in American Collections, the Crow Collection of Asian Art,Gauguin Catalogue Raisonné, James Magee: The Hill, the DMA, the Kimbell Art Museum, the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, the Nasher Sculpture Center, the Perot Museum of Nature and Science, and the Yale Series of Books on the History and Theory of Art Museums.
The institute will open this fall with events and activities to be announced soon.
Dr. Richard R. Brettell, professor of art and aesthetic studies, has been awarded the 2011 Humanitas Visiting Professorship in the History of Art at the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge.
Brettell, who holds the Margaret M. McDermott Distinguished Chair in Art and Aesthetic Studies at UT Dallas, will give a lecture series at Cambridge titled, Is There Anything Left to Say About Impressionism? The series will include three lectures and one symposium between Oct. 27 and Nov. 3.
Brettell’s first lecture, Impressionism and Anarcho-Syndicalism: The Suppressed Politics of an Apolitical Movement, will consider Impressionist exhibitions in political terms.
The Impressionist Surface: ‘Style’, Identity, and the Character of Gesture, the second lecture, will consider the painted and graphic marks of the Impressionists in post-Commune French society.
In the third lecture, Moving Through Space: Relativity and Impressionism, Brettell will discuss how the Impressionists took the idea of “a picture as a temporary stage” to new levels. This lecture will consider the work of Manet, Pissarro, Degas, Renoir, Monet and others.
Brettell founded the Center for the Interdisciplinary Study of Museums at UT Dallas in 1998. His expertise encompasses impressionism and French painting from 1830 to 1930. He earned his undergraduate, master’s and doctoral degrees from Yale University, and his museum experience includes serving as the Eugene McDermott Director at the Dallas Museum of Art and Searle Curator of European Painting at the Art Institute of Chicago.
This summer, Brettell curated the exhibition Pissarro’s People at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Mass. The Impressionist exhibit displayed 92 works, including portraits of artist’s family members alongside pictures of artists, neighbors, domestic help and rural workers. The exhibition was reviewed in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Boston Globe.
In conjunction with the exhibition, Brettell published Pissaro’s People,an archival study that that includes interviews with surviving family members of the artist and research from newly discovered letters. The book also examines the artist’s relationship with fellow artists, writers, neighbors, merchants and domestic servants.
The University of Texas at Dallas lost a friend and a supporter of arts scholarship when Dallas philanthropist and civic leader Nancy B. Hamon died Saturday at age 92.
Hamon’s generosity to the University dates back to 1970 and includes endowing a chair, supporting an extensive museum studies program, and contributing to the CentralTrak artist residency and gallery.
UT Dallas President David E. Daniel said: “Nancy Hamon was a great supporter of education and of UT Dallas. Many institutions benefited from her vision and desire to make Dallas a better place to live for all people. With her passing, we have lost a great philanthropist and a wonderful presence whose work truly made a difference in our community.”
Hamon established the Margaret M. McDermott Distinguished Chair of Art and Aesthetic Studies in 2004 with a $1 million gift in honor of her friend and longtime UT Dallas supporter, Mrs. Margaret McDermott. Dr. Richard R. Brettell, professor of art and aesthetic studies, has held that chair since its creation.
Hamon established the Margaret M. McDermott Distinguished Chair of Art and Aesthetic Studies in 2004 with a $1 million gift. Dr. Richard R. Brettell has held that chair since its creation.
A separate $1.2 million gift in 2009 to The Center for the Interdisciplinary Study of Museums at UT Dallas is supporting research that will enable a book series to be published, the Hamon Series on the History and Theory of Art Museums. Brettell, who founded the center, will edit that project.
The latter gift was instrumental in securing state matching funds to aid the University’s push to attain Tier One national research university status, and has already supported multi-year research projects for The Dallas Museum of Art, the Amon Carter Museum and the Nasher Sculpture Center. Most of these projects directly involve UT Dallas graduate students and faculty.
Executive Vice President and Provost Hobson Wildenthal said: “Nancy Hamon wanted to positively impact the world, and through her support of the arts, education, medicine, research, and numerous civic and cultural organizations, she was successful in her efforts. Her gifts to UT Dallas were timely and important in helping us with our efforts to become a Tier One university.”
Her commitment to CentralTrak resulted in $500,000 for this unique artist-in-residence program.
UT Dallas was one of many beneficiaries of Hamon’s support for the arts in North Texas. Cultural buildings bearing her name and that of her husband, oilman Jake L. Hamon, include the Dallas Museum of Art, the Winspear Opera House and the arts library at Southern Methodist University.
“As a visionary philanthropist, Mrs. Hamon enhanced the future by supporting new and emerging artists as well as acknowledged masters. Her largesse will benefit us now and, more importantly, generations to come,” said Dr. Dennis M. Kratz, dean of the School of Arts and Humanities.
“Nancy Hamon lived life large and enjoyed virtually every minute of her 92 years,” Brettell said. “She was an utterly delightful hostess and a very good friend. She was also a perfect donor – interested always in the project, but trusting those to whom she gave money to spend it wisely and for the purposes she intended.”
Hamon was a native of San Antonio who worked in the 1940s as a Hollywood dancer and actress. She married Jake Hamon, a successful oil wildcatter, in 1949 and settled in Dallas. She was preceded in death by her son, Jay, in 1984; and her husband in 1985.
As part of a new series of community-centered events, the UT Dallas Development Board is hosting a presentation titled, “The Art of Private Collecting – The Texas Experience,” with Dr. Richard Brettell, Margaret M. McDermott Distinguished Chair in Art and Aesthetic Studies at UT Dallas.
Brettell will share insights from his book From the Private Collections of Texas: European Art, Ancient to Modern from 9:30 to 11 a.m., Thursday, April 14 at the Dallas Museum of Art Horchow Auditorium. The event is free of charge and open to the public.