User:Aacarrie/History of the Indianapolis Museum of Art

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The John Herron Art Institute[edit]

A product of the late-19th-century club movement, the Art Association of Indianapolis was founded by May Wright Sewall and submitted its articles of incorporation on October 11th, 1883. Hoping to establish the interest and future support of local residents, the Art Association of Indianapolis, with its 54 members, began planning its first exhibition, offering "an opportunity to see great art." [1] In one month, Susan Ketcham, a local artist and the appointed organizer of the exhibition, obtained loans from Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia, and New York City. The exhibition included 453 oil paintings, water colors and prints from 137 artists. The exhibition was opened November 7th, 1883 at the English Hotel on the Circle and closed the same month on the 29th. It was at this first exhibition that the Art Association began collecting pieces for their permanent collection,[1] less than one month after their incorporation.[2] The first additions to their collection were Harry Chase's ''Running for Anchorage'' and Percival de Luce's ''An Anxious Mother''. The Association continued its growth of the permanent collection by purchasing from their annual exhibitions.[2]

The Art Association spent over twelve years moving to different locations around the city, including private residences, "expounding the value of art." It wasn't until 1895, after receiving a substantial bequest from John Herron, that the Association was able to consider a permanent location. [2] Though not an active philanthropist during his lifetime, nor visibly connected to the Art Association of Indianapolis, at the time of his death in 1895 John Herron donated $200,000 to the Art Association.[1] Ambrose P. Stanton, the executor of John Herron's estate, explained the reason behind the bequest saying:

[Herron] observed that nearly every interest in the city was getting along pretty well except its art culture. He decided to leave all his money to this purpose, except for a few small bequests...He had a broad idea of his mission. He wanted to put it to good and wanted it to benefit Indianapolis.[2]

The only stipulation to John Herron's bequest was that his name be attached to the art gallery and school.[1] Over twenty properties were considered for the new building between April 11th, 1899 and January 12th, 1900. The final decision was made to purchase Talbott House, the former residence of local artist T.C. Steele, located on the corner of 16th and Pennsylvania Streets.[1] This building served as the temporary home for the John Herron Art Institute, until the Art Association could construct a new building.[2] Recognizing the need for a curator to organize the Association's nearly one hundred artworks, the board of directors chose Anna Turrell, niece of John Herron, organize the collection. In addition to this work, Anna Turrell also took on the management of the museum until 1905.[1] In January 1902 the John Herron Art Institute opened, and the primary mission--"to provide opportunities for the public to look at pictures...and to provide opportunity for instruction in art"--was fulfilled. The school began with ten students and quickly grew to sixty-nine by March of the same year. The five teachers at the Institute included: J. Otis Adams, who taught drawing and painting, Brandt Steele, son of T.C. Steele, who taught "Nature Study", focusing on its application to design and modern ornament, and Alfred B. Lyon, who taught historic ornament and practical ornamental modeling and carving.[1] Classes were held six days a week, including courses in the evenings to accommodate the working citizens, with special classes held on Saturdays for children and teachers which outnumbered the both the day and evening weekday classes combined.[1] Emphasis on the Arts and Crafts Movement grew throughout the early years of the school, as a means to financially benefit the students by teaching them "applied art".[2]

In 1904, T.C. Steele, a chairman of the fine arts committee, advised the board of directors to hire a managing director for the Institute. The director would serve as the head of the art school, focus the purpose of the building committee and serve the Institute as a visible and active promoter within the Indianapolis community. Upon Steele's recommendation, the board hired William Henry Fox.[2] William Fox was the former director of fine arts at the St. Louis World's fair and a member of the Philadelphia bar. The trustees' hoped that Fox would oversee "...the development of all the activities of the Art Association necessary to make the institution a live influence in the city and state."[1] With the help of Fox, the John Herron Art Institute was able to finally decide upon the funds, despite its divided board, for the construction of a new building on the Talbott House site which would accommodate for both the growing museum and school.[1][2]

By 1937 the school was a success, and though the museum was also gradually growing, it was at much slower pace.[2] Prior to the arrival of Wilbur Peat, in 1927 as the fifth director, the John Herron Art Institute was largely dependent on donations to build its collection. Two of the most significant donations included a textile collection from the family of Eliza Niblack, and a group of supporters called the Gamboliers who donated money for the acquisition of modern art.[2] However, Peat was far more interested in actively expanding the museum's collection. In 1932 the board of trustees created a new Advisory Committee to suggest and review acquisitions under the guidance of the Museum Director.[2]


Multiple sites were considered for the new location of what was then the John Herron Art Museum, but after much debate the Art Association finally decided, with the help and support of Herman Krannert and Kurt Pantzer, to move the museum to 38th street in 1960. Their intention was to create a cultural campus, an acropolis of science and culture.[2] Father and son architects, George and William Wright, were chosen by Krannert to consider areas for an acropolis. They returned with three suggestions: 38th Street and Knollton Road, the Samuel Harrell Farm at 42nd Street and Michigan Road and 38th Street and Michigan Road (alluding to the Oldfields Estate and current location of the Indianapolis Museum of Art).[2] Eight years after the initial consideration for a new building and location, Ruth and J.K. Lilly donated Oldfields to the Art Association. Another three years of last minute debates about properties, designs and construction of the museum took place before the museum was finished. In 1970, the Indianapolis Museum of Art's new building, the Krannert Pavilion, designed by Ambrose Madison Richardson, opened to the public. Influenced by Mies van de Rohe and Walter Gropius, Richardson's design was an elegant combination of both modern and classical architecture.[2] In 1972 the cultural campus continued its expansion with the construction of the Clowes Pavilion, housing the Old Masters' Collection belonging to Edith and Dr. George Clowes. The third pavilion, named after Grace Showalter in honor of her significant bequest, was built to provide an auditorium and theater for the cultural campus. During the Showalter construction, the museum unveiled the Sutphin Fountain, a contemporary stone fountain funded by Sam and Dudley Sutphin as a dedication to their late father Samuel Brady Sutphin. In 1973, the Showalter Pavilion, housing the Civic Theater, was opened to the public.[2]

Though the museum grounds were not a priority during the construction of the Krannert, Clowes and Showalter Pavilions, a grounds committee whose purpose was to protect the most significant aspects of the Oldfields' grounds was created. This committee eventually became the IMA Horticultural Society in 1972.[2] The Board eventually agreed to develop a master plan for the museum grounds in 1989 after Charles Gleaves the new Director of Horticulture discovered the original landscape design of Percival Gallagher from the Olmstead Brothers' architecture firm. The Johnson, Johnson & Roy architecture firm began developing Gallagher's original plan in 1994.[2] In 1990, Bret Waller became the director of the Indianapolis Museum of Art and was faced with the predicament of what to do with 52 over-run landscaped acres, and a mansion in disrepair.[2] Waller began planning the "New Vision" of the IMA. Shortly thereafter the IMA was able to implement the plan because of an unforeseen bequest from Enid Goodrich. Her bequest in 1997 is the largest gift in the museum's history. The 1994 restoration of the Oldfields Formal Gardens continued through 1997 under the supervision of Gleaves's successor Mark Zelonis. With help from donors and 200 volunteers, the Rapp Family Ravine Garden opened in 1999 and was awarded the Centennial Medallion fro the American Society of Landscape Architects' Indiana Chapter. The National Register of Historic Places named Oldfields a significant American landmark; in 2004 it was designated a National Historic Landmark.[2]

Waller retired in 2001.[2] However, the 2005 opening of three more pavilions, the Efroymson Entry Pavilion, the Wood Gallery Pavilion and the Deer-Zink Events Pavilion were products of Waller's "New Vision".[3] These new buildings increased the museum's internal space by 164,000 square feet and renovated 90,000 square feet of existing space while making the museum more accessible to the public.[4] The slowly shifting attitudes within the museum were realized after the 2005 opening of the museum. The new construction created a more welcoming entrance that encouraged a wider and more diverse audience.[5]

  • In more recent years, the museum shifted to include a wider and more diverse audience,[5] in an attempt to be more open to the public such changes were made including the 2005 opening of the Efroymson Family Pavilion, Deer Zink Events Pavilion and the Wood Gallery Pavilion.[3]
  • "Four new pavilions have been added to the original building since 1970, and the most recent expansion added 171,800 square feet (15,960 m2) to the museum." (From original article; can use but add good source.)

Early exhibitions[edit]

Saving some of Emily's more detailed exhibit info here.

Throughout its history, the IMA has provided visitors with the opportunity to view a diverse selection of temporary exhibitions. This tradition began in 1909 when a memorial exhibition of sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens was brought to Indianapolis.[6] Director William Henry Fox worked tirelessly to champion the retrospective, promising the board that he could guarantee attendance of 50,000 visitors[6] and convincing Saint-Gaudens’ widow to allow the exhibit to be shown in a city with fewer than one million visitors.[2] Fox’s efforts paid off, and the Augustus Saint-Gauden Memorial Exhibition (also referred to as the Saint-Gaudens Memorial Exhibition of Statuary) attracted 56,000 visitors during its three month run.[2]

In 1937, another notable exhibition was prepared: Dutch Paintings of the Seventeenth Century.[2] The impetus for the show was an acquisition of a painting believed to be by Meindert Hobbema, which the board sought to contextualize by placing it in a large-scale show of pieces by a variety of Dutch artists.[2] Loans were arranged from institutions such as the Cincinnati Art Museum, The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.[2] The show presented 65 pieces, including several rare Rembrandts.[7] Dutch Paintings of the Seventeenth Century ran for six weeks, garnered 39,000 attendees and propelled the museum toward a new identity; one that placed it as a center for connoisseurship in Indianapolis.[2]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Warkel, Harriet G. (2003). The Herron Chronicle. Indiana University Press. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z Berry, S.L. (2008). Every Way Possible: 125 Years of the Indianapolis Museum of Art. Indianapolis Museum of Art. 
  3. ^ a b "Spreading Its Wings" (PDF). Lighting Design and Application. 35 (11): 52–56. 2005.  Unknown parameter |month= ignored (help)
  4. ^ "European art galleries set to reopen today". The News Gazette. Dec 3, 2006. 
  5. ^ a b Lloyd, Christopher (September 9, 2007). "A wider canvas; Savvy ads and new exhibits boost IMA attendance and membership". The Indianapolis Star. 
  6. ^ a b "Saint Gaudens Exhibit Will Be Brought Here: Art Association Committee Reaches Decision, 50,000 Attendance Needed". The Indianapolis News. November 24, 1909. 
  7. ^ ""Dutch Artists' Collection to be Shown Here: 65 Paintings, Including Several Rembrandts, Will Go on Exhibition at herron Feb. 27."". The Indianapolis Star. January 23, 1937.