Kay and Velma Kimbell saw British artist William Beechey’s painting of his children at an exhibition at the Carnegie Library in Fort Worth. They bought it from the dealer Bertram M. Newhouse on the last day of the show.
Caption: William Beechey, The Artist’s Children, c. 1805–10, oil on canvas. Private collection
Kay and Velma Kimbell, along with Kay’s sister and brother-in-law, Dr. and Mrs. Coleman Carter, formed the Kimbell Art Foundation, which owns and operates the Museum, shortly after the Kimbells purchased their first paintings.
Caption: Dario Rappaport, Portraits of Kay and Velma Kimbell, 1935, oil on canvas. Kimbell Art Museum
The site of the future Kimbell Art Museum is announced
Seven months after Kay Kimbell’s death, the board of directors of the Kimbell Art Foundation announced jointly with the mayor of Fort Worth the selection of a nine-and-a-half-acre site for the proposed museum to house the Kimbell collection and future acquisitions. It was city-owned land adjoining the site of the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, in the heart of what is now referred to as Fort Worth’s Cultural District.
Caption: The site of the future Kimbell Art Museum, c. 1968–69
Richard F. (Ric) Brown is appointed the Museum's first director
Richard Fargo Brown, a great-grandson of the founder of Wells Fargo, was educated in Harvard University’s Fogg Art Museum and began his museum career as a researcher in the Frick Collection in New York. He was director of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art when he accepted the position of director of the Kimbell Art Museum.
Caption: Richard F. (Ric) Brown, October or November 1968
The Museum's "Policy Statement" shapes the future of the collection
The Kimbell's formal “Policy Statement,” adopted by the Kimbell Art Foundation’s board of directors in 1966, defined the scope of the Museum’s collection in terms of both quality and breadth. It states that the Museum’s aim is to “form collections of the highest possible aesthetic quality, derived from any and all periods in man’s history, and in any medium or style” and insists that the Museum’s goal be acquisitions of “definitive excellence, not size of collection.”
Louis I. Kahn is commissioned as Kimbell architect
Richard F. Brown, the Kimbell’s first director, wanted a building that was not only functional, but also architecturally significant, “definitive of twentieth-century style.” Though he considered several potential architects, including I. M. Pei and Mies van der Rohe, Brown was persuaded that Louis I. Kahn should be the architect of the new museum, and the board of directors accepted his decision. A formal contract for Kahn to design the building with the assistance of the local architectural firm Preston M. Geren and Associates was signed on October 5, 1966.
Velma Kimbell, in the presence of the Kimbell Art Foundation’s board of directors, broke ground on the Kimbell Art Museum’s building in July of 1969, just under three years after the hiring of Louis I. Kahn as the architect.
Caption: Velma Kimbell at the original Museum groundbreaking, July 1969
Over 100 new acquisitions made before the Museum's opening
Under the guidance of director Richard F. Brown, the Kimbell Art Foundation purchased over 100 new acquisitions before the Kimbell Art Museum even opened to the public. These ranged from Cycladic, Greek, and Roman sculpture to fifteenth-century Italian Renaissance painting, and from early twentieth-century French art to Indian and Southeast Asian sculpture, Chinese and Japanese ceramics and paintings, and the art of the Precolumbian Olmec and Maya cultures. Among these are some of the most celebrated works of the collection, including Giovanni Bellini’s Christ Blessing, François Boucher’s four monumental canvases of the loves of the gods, Francisco de Goya’s Portrait of the Matador Pedro Romero, Claude Monet’s La Pointe de la Hève at Low Tide, and Pablo Picasso’s Man with a Pipe.
Caption: Claude Monet, La Pointe de la Hève at Low Tide, 1865, oil on canvas. Kimbell Art Museum, acquired in 1968
The Kimbell opened to the public on October 4, 1972. Director Richard F. Brown was incredibly pleased with the Museum at the time of its opening, saying that it was “what every museum has been looking for ever since museums came into existence: a floor uninterrupted by piers, columns or windows, and perfect lighting, giving total freedom and flexibility to use the space and to install art exactly the way you want.” The Kimbell’s small but diverse collection was arranged informally and was accompanied in the galleries by specially designed furniture of oak and leather and richly patterned oriental rugs.
Caption: The Kimbell Art Museum’s opening reception, October 1972
The Kimbell hosts its first loan exhibition, "Impressionist and Post-Impressionist Paintings from the U.S.S.R."
Not long after it opened, the Kimbell began a program of loan exhibitions to bring to the Southwest art that would otherwise be unavailable to the public. The first of these exhibits was Impressionist and Post-Impressionist Paintings from the U.S.S.R. It marked the first time many of the included works had traveled outside of the Soviet Union and was a great popular success, drawing record crowds from a five-state regional audience.
Caption: A banner in downtown Fort Worth advertises the Kimbell’s first exhibition, 1973
After the death of Richard F. Brown, the Kimbell’s board of directors appointed as new Museum director Dr. Edmund P. Pillsbury, who had directed the Yale Center for British Art for five years. Soon after his arrival, he simplified the gallery furnishings and began expanding education and exhibition programs, as well as public services.
Caption: Edmund P. Pillsbury in the Kimbell’s conservation studio with Saenredam’s Interior of the Buurkerk, Utrecht, 1986
Cézanne's "Man in a Blue Smock" is acquired in memory of Ric Brown
Cézanne's "Man in a Blue Smock" was acquired in memory of Richard F. Brown and his tremendous contributions to the Kimbell Art Museum for almost $4.3 million, a record for the artist.
Caption: Paul Cézanne, "Man in a Blue Smock," c. 1896–97, oil on canvas. Acquired in memory of Richard F. Brown, the Kimbell Art Museum's first director, by the Kimbell board of directors, assisted by the gifts of many friends
In 1981, the Kimbell expanded its modest snack bar into a buffet restaurant under the management of Shelby Schafer. At its inception, the Buffet Restaurant served soup, salad, and dessert to around twenty-five to thirty customers a day. It wasn’t long before local patrons began to frequent the Buffet, however, and the restaurant soon increased its staff and its menu in order to accommodate around 150 people a day during popular exhibitions.
The first Kimbell "Calendar" magazine is published
The first Kimbell Calendar magazine was published in September of 1981 to provide interested parties with information about Museum news and upcoming events. It has been published biannually ever since and is one of the benefits of membership in the Kimbell.
Caption: The cover of the first Kimbell Calendar magazine, published in September 1981
The Kimbell organizes the first retrospective of Vigée Le Brun
Elisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun acquired considerable fame and renown for her portraits of Queen Marie-Antoinette and artistocratic ladies in late 18th-century France. The Kimbell's Self-Portrait, acquired in 1949, remains one of the most beloved works in the collection.
Caption: Elisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun, Self-Portrait, c. 1781, oil on canvas. Kimbell Art Museum, acquired in 1949. In recognition of his service to the Kimbell Art Museum and his role in developing area collectors, the Board of Trustees of the Kimbell Art Foundation has dedicated this work from the collection of Mr. and Mrs. Kay Kimbell, founding benefactors of the Kimbell Art Museum, to the memory of Mr. Bertram Newhouse (1883–1982) of New York City.
The Kimbell’s membership program was initiated in 1982 to provide twice-yearly programming information and invitations to exhibition openings to an expanding regional, national, and international audience. The initial program featured two categories of membership. Members at the Subscriber level received a twice-yearly Calendar magazine, and those at the Patron level received, in addition, free admission and invitations to major exhibitions. Popular from its inception, the program gained approximately 3,500 members in its first decade.
Caption: Visitors to the Kimbell’s Fabergé exhibition, 1983
Isamu Noguchi installs his sculpture "Constellation (for Louis Kahn)" in the Kimbell's south courtyard
Around 1980, the great twentieth-century stage designer, furniture maker, and sculptor Isamu Noguchi was inspired to create a sculptural ensemble for the grass courtyard on the south side of the Kimbell in honor of the architect Louis I. Kahn. The two men had been friends—they worked together in the early 1960s on a never-realized playground for Manhattan’s Riverside Park. Arranged on the Kimbell site in August 1983, Constellation makes a most successful addition to the building through allusion to one of Kahn’s favorite topics, the prehistory of architecture. In particular, it recalls the mysterious menhirs that are among the earliest structures made by humankind.
Caption: South view of the Kimbell’s Kahn building with Isamu Noguchi’s Constellation (for Louis Kahn), 1980–83, basalt. Acquired in 1983, gift of the Isamu Noguchi Foundation in honor of Louis I. Kahn and the Kimbell Art Museum. With thanks and goodbye to Shaindy Fenton
From the beginning, the founders of the Kimbell Art Museum envisioned a conservation program to “preserve for future generations what has been entrusted to its care,” and the Museum was built with a professional paintings conservation studio. Perry Huston worked part time for the Kimbell until 1983, and in 1984, Claire Barry, a protégé of the Metropolitan Museum of Art conservator John Brealey, was appointed the Kimbell’s first full-time paintings conservator—and one of the first in a Texas museum.
Caption: The Kimbell’s conservation studio, in the Kahn building
The Kimbell acquires the first painting by Friedrich to enter a public collection outside of Europe
Caspar David Friedrich is among the greatest of those Romantic artists in whose work spiritual yearning is the dominant theme. His landscapes epitomized an international trend around 1800 to contemplate nature, as opposed to “civilization,” for revelations about basic and eternal truths. When the Kimbell acquired A Mountain Peak with Drifting Clouds in 1984, it became the first public collection outside of Europe to own a painting by Friedrich.
Caption: Caspar David Friedrich, A Mountain Peak with Drifting Clouds, c. 1835, oil on canvas. Kimbell Art Museum
The Kimbell organizes "The Blood of Kings: A New Interpretation of Maya Art"
One of the Museum’s most groundbreaking exhibitions, The Blood of Kings penetrated the world and mind of the Maya as no previous show had. Making full use of the tremendous progress in deciphering Maya hieroglyphic script that took place after 1960, the exhibition revealed for the first time the specific ritualistic and dynastic meaning of Maya art and showcased 110 rare Precolumbian masterpieces.
Caption: Bird Jaguar as Warrior Chief, Maya, A.D. 756, carved limestone. The British Museum, London
Caravaggio’s Cardsharps, one of the Museum’s best-known works, had disappeared for nearly 80 years after an 1895 sale before reappearing in Zurich in 1987 and being acquired by the Kimbell. Though skeptics at first thought it was merely a copy, the discovery of Caravaggio’s patron Cardinal del Monte’s wax seal on the reverse of the canvas, as well as evidence of pentimenti (artist’s changes), provided conclusive proof that the painting was Caravaggio’s original, influential masterpiece.
Caption: Caravaggio, The Cardsharps, c. 1594–5, oil on canvas. Kimbell Art Museum
The Kimbell organizes the first major exhibition of Poussin held in America
Nicolas Poussin occupies a central place in the history of art. His paintings provided the foundation for the great French tradition of classical art and nurtured the neoclassicism of the 18th and 19th centuries. The Kimbell had acquired the artist's "Venus and Adonis" four years before the exhibition, in 1985.
Caption: Nicolas Poussin, Venus and Adonis, c. 1628–29, oil on canvas. Kimbell Art Museum, acquired in 1985
Attendance reaches a record 430,000 for the exhibition "Impressionist Masterpieces from the Barnes Collection"
Not surprisingly, the Kimbell’s exhibition of Impressionist works from the extraordinary collection assembled by Dr. Albert C. Barnes was one of the Museum’s most successful shows ever. It was the first time that these works had been on display outside of their permanent home in the suburbs of Philadelphia; in fact, since the death of Dr. Barnes in 1951, none of the works had been reproduced in color or lent until the advent of this exhibition. The once-in-a-lifetime show—called “just about perfect” by Michael Kimmelman of the New York Times—featured 20 works by Cézanne, 16 by Renoir, 16 by Matisse, seven by Picasso, and significant paintings by Van Gogh, Gauguin, Seurat, Monet, Manet, Braque, Modigliani, and others.
Miró's "Woman Addressing the Public" is installed at the east entrance of the Kimbell
Miró’s huge fantasy Woman Addressing the Public dominates the east entrance of the Kimbell and is usually the first artwork a visitor sees upon arriving at the Museum. The artist first realized its design in 1971 as a twenty-inch plaster maquette. He planned to place the statue at the entrance to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, then in New York City’s Central Park or at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, in Washington, but none of these projects materialized. It would be nearly a quarter of a century before his playful “monster” wouldfinally have a place of honor outside an important museum, the Kimbell. The final work, cast in an edition of four when the artist was eighty-seven, weighs roughly three tons.
Caption: Joan Miró, Woman Addressing the Public: Project for a Monument, 1980–81, bronze. Kimbell Art Museum
The Kimbell hosts "Hatshepsut: From Queen to Pharaoh"
Incredibly popular, this spectacular landmark exhibition explored the 20-year reign of the Egyptian pharaoh Hatshepsut, the first great female ruler known to history. Perhaps one of the most intriguing figures in ancient Egypt, she oversaw an artistic renewal that produced some of the greatest masterpieces of the magnificent civilization, many of which were featured in this exhibition. Fort Worth was the last of only three venues to showcase the statuary, ceremonial objects, finely crafted furniture, dazzling jewelry, and exquisite personal items that told the compelling story of Hatshepsut—woman, queen, and pharaoh.
Caption: Sphinx of Hatshepsut, Egypt, New Kingdom, c. 1473–1458 B.C., granite and paint. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Rogers Fund, 1931
Renzo Piano is commissioned as architect for the Kimbell's second building
The Renzo Piano Building Workshop was selected as architect for the new Kimbell building in April of 2007. Renzo Piano seemed a perfect choice—winner of the prestigious Pritzker Architecture Prize and honored for buildings that are celebrated for their sensitivity to site and surroundings and quality of their light, he also worked as a young architect in the office of Louis I. Kahn. More recently, he had favored Texas with several museums of great distinction, including the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas and the Menil Collection in Houston.
Caption: Renzo Piano on the construction site of the Kimbell's new building, June 2012
The Kimbell organizes "Picturing the Bible: The Earliest Christian Art"
The Kimbell-organized exhibition Picturing the Bible explored the emergence of Christianity with over 100 of the most important Christian works of the third through fifth centuries. These artworks are extremely rare, and the exhibition included a number of precious objects preserved for centuries in churches in Italy that had never before been allowed to travel. Due to the difficulty of securing such treasured loans, the Kimbell was the only venue for these critically important and intellectually exceptional works.
The Kimbell hosts "The Impressionists: Master Paintings from the Art Institute of Chicago"
A major loan exhibition, The Impressionists brought to Fort Worth the crème-de-la-crème of one of the most celebrated and iconic collections of Impressionist paintings in the world, that of the Art Institute of Chicago. The exhibition featured 92 masterpieces by artists including Manet, Degas, Monet, Renoir, Cézanne, Van Gogh, Gauguin, and Toulouse-Lautrec. On display were works that define the Impressionist achievement—Caillebotte’s Paris Street; Rainy Day, Van Gogh’s The Bedroom, Toulouse-Lautrec’s At the Moulin Rouge, late works by Monet executed at Giverny, some of Renoir’s most beloved portraits, and more.
Caption: The Impressionists: Master Paintings from the Art Institute of Chicago on view in the Kimbell's galleries
Dr. Eric M. Lee was appointed the fourth director of the Kimbell Art Museum in 2009. Since joining the Kimbell, Lee has championed important acquisitions by Michelangelo, Guercino, Bonington, and Poussin.
Caption: Eric M. Lee in the south gallery of the Kimbell Art Museum, 2011
The Kimbell acquires the first painting by Michelangelo to enter an American collection
The Kimbell acquired Michelangelo’s Torment of Saint Anthony—the first known painting by the artist, believed to have been created when he was only 12 or 13 years old—in 2009. It is the first painting by the famous Italian master to enter an American collection and one of only four easel paintings generally regarded as having come from his hand.
Caption: Michelangelo, The Torment of Saint Anthony, c. 1487–88, egg tempera on panel. Kimbell Art Museum
Kay Fortson, president of the board of directors of the Kimbell Art Foundation, delivered remarks and broke ground at a groundbreaking ceremony attended by other members of the board, Fort Worth mayor Mike Moncrief, Kimbell director Eric M. Lee and other members of the Kimbell staff and community.
On January 8, 2012, the Kimbell welcomed its 10 millionth visitor, Anna Chaney. She arrived less than two hours before the close of the exhibition Caravaggio and His Followers in Rome and at the beginning of the Museum’s 40th anniversary year. Greeted with fanfare, the delighted Chaney received a lifetime Kimbell Family Membership, a collection of Museum books and gifts, and a weekend at the Omni Fort Worth Hotel.
Caption: The Kimbell welcomed its 10 millionth visitor. From left: Eric M. Lee, director; Kay Fortson, president of the board of directors; Anna Chaney, the 10 millionth visitor; her husband, Ernest Chaney.
This new Kimbell Art Museum website launched on December 20, 2012. Full of enhanced and interactive features, detailed information, and beautiful images of our renowned architecture and collection, the site puts the Kimbell at the fingertips of its online visitors. The site was designed with LevelTen Interactive, a Dallas-based company.
Kay Fortson, president of the board of directors of the Kimbell Art Foundation, delivered remarks and cut the ribbon at the Renzo Piano Pavilion ribbon cutting ceremony attended by members of the board, Fort Worth mayor Betsy Price, Kimbell director Eric M. Lee, and other members of the Kimbell staff and community.
The Kimbell opens the first special exhibition in the new Piano Pavilion
The Museum debuts its first special exhibition in its new Piano Pavilion. The show Samurai: Armor from the Ann and Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Collection features more than 140 remarkable objects of extraordinary artistry that were used by samurai—the military elite led by the shoguns, or warlords, of Japan from the 12th through 19th centuries.
Caption: Armor of the nimaitachidō type (nimaitachidō tōsei gusoku), attributed to Myōchin Yoshimichi (helmet bowl); Myōchin Munenori (armor); Muromachi period, c. 1400 (helmet bowl); mid-Edo period, 18th century (armor). Iron, shakudō, silver, bronze, wood, gold, brocade, lacing, fur, leather