When Oscar Jacobson (1882-1966) became
director of the School of Art in 1915, there was only one art class
on campus. Supplies for drawing and painting were scarce, and sculpting
materials non-existent. Though a few wealthy families had private
collections, there were no art museums or collections in the state
available to the public, and the art center nearest to Norman was
as far afield as St. Louis. Undaunted by these challenges, Jacobson
envisioned an art school which would nurture its students to develop
to their fullest potential.
In 1936, with the acquisition of a large collection of East
Asian art (750 objects), the generous gift of Lew Wentz and
Gordon Matzene, the Museum of Art was officially founded and Jacobson
was named its director. By this time, Jacobson had already collected
over 2,500 works of art for the University. The new museum's first
galleries were in what is now Jacobson Hall. In 1948, the permanent
collection was further embellished with the purchase of the so-called
Department Collection, comprised of thirty-six paintings from
the exhibition Advancing American Art and including major works
by artists such as Stuart
O'Keeffe, and Edward
Jacobson's vision of a permanent facility to house the art finally
came to fruition in 1971, when Mr. and Mrs. Fred Jones of Oklahoma
City donated a fine arts building to the University in memory of
their son, Fred Jones, Jr., who had died in an airplane crash during
his senior year at the University of Oklahoma. The resulting structure,
the Fred Jones Jr. Memorial Art Center, houses the Museum of Art,
which contains 15,000 square feet of exhibition space, the School
of Art, and the administrative offices of the College of Fine Arts.
In 1992, the Museum of Art was re-designated the Fred Jones Jr.
Museum of Art.
Over the years, the Museum's permanent collection has grown exponentially
through the generosity of donors such as Max Weitzenhoffer and the
Jerome M. Westheimer Sr. In 1996, with an initial gift of $1 million
from Mrs. Fred Jones, OU President and Mrs. David L. Boren spearheaded
the successful fundraising campaign to acquire the important collection
of the late Richard
H. and Adeline J. Fleischaker, which is composed primarily of
Native American and Southwestern art.
2000 was a watershed year in the development of the FJJMA's collections,
with the gift of the Weitzenhoffer
Collection of French Impressionism, which consists of thirty-three
works of art by Degas, Gauguin, Monet, Pissarro, Renoir, Toulouse-Lautrec,
Van Gogh, Vuillard and others. It is the most important collection
of French Impressionism ever given to an American public university.
The gift came to the University as the bequest of Clara Weitzenhoffer,
an art collector and long-time University of Oklahoma supporter.
Today, the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art is one of the finest university
art museums in the United States. Strengths of the 8,000-object
permanent collection are French
twentieth-century American painting and sculpture, contemporary
art, traditional and contemporary Native
American art, art of the Southwest, ceramics, Asian art, photography,
and graphics from the sixteenth century to the present. Temporary
exhibitions are mounted throughout the year which explore the art
of various periods and cultures.
In 2005 the Museum opened a new addition, designed by acclaimed
architect Hugh Newell Jacobsen of Washington, D.C. Named in honor of
Mary and Howard Lester of San Francisco, the wing adds more than 34,000
square feet to the earlier 27,000 square-foot building. The Lester
Wing features galleries for the Weitzenhoffer Collection, additional
galleries, a 150-seat auditorium, an orientation room, a classroom, a
museum store, and a new main entrance. Jacobsen designed the Lester
Wing as a sequence of limestone pavilions having pyramidal slate roofs
with glass skylights at their apexes. The building features an
abundance of natural light, pure geometries, clarity of plan, and
well-proportioned, top-lighted galleries that have an intimate, human
scale. The resulting serene,
contemplative spaces put the visitor in the proper frame of mind for viewing works of art.