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Museum History

2011 staff with President David L. Boren

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 a 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 State Department Collection, comprised of thirty-six paintings from the exhibition Advancing American Art and including major works by artists such as Stuart Davis, Georgia O'Keeffe, and Edward Hopper.

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, housed 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 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 33 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.

Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art

Lester Wing

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.

Adkins Collection

The Adkins Foundation Board announced in July 2007 that the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art and the Philbrook Museum of Art in Tulsa had been jointly selected to steward the Adkins Collection. The joint partnership by OU and the Philbrook was among many proposals submitted by leading museums across the country.

The Adkins Collection, which is valued at approximately $50 million features approximately 3,300 objects, including more that 400 paintings by such distinguished American artists as Maynard Dixon, Worthington Whittridge, Andrew Dasburg, Alfred Jacob Miller, Victor Higgins, Charles M. Russell, Nicolai Fechin, John Marin, William R. Leigh, Leon Gaspard and Joseph H. Sharp. The collection also includes impressive examples of Native American paintings, pottery and jewelry by such famed Native American artists as Jerome Tiger, Maria Martinez and Charles Loloma.

Bialac Collection

In spring 2010, Arizona-based James T. Bialac decided to give his private collection to OU because of the university’s commitment to excellence in education. The multimillion-dollar collection of more than 4,000 works represents indigenous cultures across North America, especially the Pueblos of the Southwest, the Navajo, the Hopi, many of the tribes of the Northern and Southern Plains and the Southeastern tribes. Included in the James T. Bialac Native American Art Collection are approximately 2,600 paintings and works on paper, over 1,000 kachinas and 400 works of varying media, including ceramics and jewelry, representing major Native artists such as Fred Kabotie, Awa Tsireh, Fritz Scholder, Joe Herrera, Allan Houser, Jerome Tiger, Tonita Pena, Helen Hardin, Pablita Velarde, George Morrison, Richard “Dick” West, Patrick DesJarlait and Pop Chalee.

Stuart Wing

stuart wing

The Stuart Wing, which opened in October 2011, provides a new 18,000-square-foot expansion of the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art to house the museum’s many collections acquired within the past 15 years. Designed by noted architect Rand Elliott, the new addition is named the Stuart Wing to honor a $3 million lead gift from the Stuart Family Foundation made possible by the generosity of OU Regent Jon R. Stuart and his wife, Dee Dee, a member of the art museum’s board of visitors. Construction on the new wing began in 2009 and includes renovations to the original 1971 building and the addition of the Eugene B. Adkins Gallery, a new photography gallery and new administrative offices. In all, the new Stuart Wing, with renovations, includes 27,480 square feet of exhibition space. Combining that with the 2005 Lester Wing’s 12,106 square footage, the total museum exhibition space, is approximately 40,000 square feet.

Permanent Collection

Strengths of the nearly 17,000-object permanent collection (including the approx. 3,300-object Adkins Collection and the more than 4,500-object James T. Bialac Native American Art Collection) are the Weitzenhoffer Collection of French Impressionism, 20th century American painting and sculpture, traditional and contemporary Native American art, art of the Southwest, ceramics, photography, contemporary art, Asian art and graphics from the 16th century to the present. Temporary exhibitions are mounted throughout the year which explore the art of various periods and cultures.

Free Admission

In November 2012, the University of Oklahoma announced a new annual $60,000 gift from the OU Athletics Department which now provides free admission for all visitors to the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art in perpetuity. This unique collaboration between athletics and art is one of the first in the United States creating free admission for a university art museum through a university athletics program.