Invaluable: Collection Treasures from Past Exhibitions
In the 85 years following the founding of the Abilene Fine Arts Museum (AFAM), with the stated goal of creating an important art collection “for the good of the citizens of Abilene,” the art collection has grown to include more than 2,500 invaluable works of art. Dating from the 13th to the 21st centuries, important paintings, sculptures, works on paper, and photographs have been purchased or gifted to the care of The Grace Museum.
The first painting purchased in 1939 for the art collection was selected by popular vote from the exhibition 30 American Painters, which was sponsored by the American Federation of the Arts Southern Artist League Circuit, organized by the Cincinnati Museum of Art American Art, and locally sponsored by the Abilene Woman’s Forum and was on view at the West Texas Chambers of Commerce Building on North 3rd Street. The Farmer, oil on board, 1936 by Mississippi artist Marie A. Hull was purchased with funds from patrons and Friends of Art and was to be the nucleus of the nascent art collection. In The Grace Museum archives, the painting is listed as a gift of the Art League of the Woman’s Forum and Friends of Art with a copy of a voting ballot requesting a minimum of a $1.00 donation.
Marie A. Hull, The Farmer, 1936, oil on board, Collection of The Grace Museum, Gift of the Art Unit of the Woman’s Forum and Friends of Art
The stated mission of the AFAM was to provide access to art of national and international scope with accompanying educational lectures and to create a permanent art collection. The local community has sustained the collection and museum for 85 years and the museum continues to serve as an important cultural hub for West Texas and the surrounding area. The Grace Museum continues to promote an understanding of art by actively collecting, preserving, interpreting, and exhibiting original works of art and objects of artistic and historical significance.
In 1986, the AFAM collaborated with the Abilene Preservation League in a campaign to restore the former Hotel Grace, built in 1909. The new museum facility was opened in February 1992 as the Grace Cultural Center. The 55,000 square foot structure includes five galleries for temporary art exhibitions, many of which feature works of art from the permanent collection. In 1998, the museum’s name was officially changed to The Grace Museum. In 2006, The Grace Museum achieved national accreditation by the American Alliance of Museums and was reaccredited in 2020.
Since 2000, the primary goal for the art collection is to build an exemplary collection of original works of art by established American artists with ties to Texas. These ties to Texas are defined as artists of the past and present who were born in Texas and/or worked, studied, or exhibited in Texas. It is also an imperative to place Texas art works in the context of American art. To that end The Grace Museum endeavors to collect important American art building on the strengths of the current collection.
This exhibition is curated to feature major gifts and museum purchases of works of art and artists featured in important art exhibitions over the last 85 years. Gifts from exhibited artists, artist estates, art dealers, and private collectors have proved invaluable in the development of an extensive, quality art collection of paintings on canvas or panel, sculpture of various media, assemblages of mixed media, bound folios, painted ivories, ceramics, photographs, and works on paper including drawings, watercolors, pastels, and fine art prints.
Kate Breakey, Portrait of a Raven, digital archival inkjet print hand-colored with pencil and pastel
Selections for this exhibition include early and recent accessions to highlight the scope, diversity and quality of art collected by the museum over the last eighty five years. The newly restored painting by Marie Hull is included as well as artwork by important artists such as Edward Eisenlohr, Frank Reaugh, Charles Bowling, Jerry Bywaters, David Bates, Melissa Miller, Ansel Adams, Otis Dozier, Keith Carter, Thomas Hart Benton, Peter Hurd, Beili Liu, and many others whose artwork has been on view in major exhibitions at the AFAM and The Grace Museum over the years.
The success of The Grace Museum’s art collection is due in large part to generous donors and financial support from members of the Collectors Circle and individual artists donations over the years. Collectors and sponsors such as Alice and Bill Wright strengthened the fine art photography collection through gifts of over 800 original fine art photographic prints. The Alice and Bill Wright Photography collection contains important photographs by many Texas based photographers as well as internationally known photographers such as Ansel Adams, Robert Frank, and Sebastião Salgado. The Clint Hamilton Collection includes the artist’s personal archive, private art collection of art by Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Andy Warhol, as well as a large collection of Hamilton’s own artwork. The works on paper collection was greatly enhanced in 1992 by Stephen and Jill Wilkinson’s gift of 86 important American fine art prints to the permanent collection. Loaned works of art from the permanent collection have been featured in many important exhibitions in partnership with other accredited museums throughout Texas and beyond.
Statement of Purpose
The Grace Museum collections define the museum as an important cultural and education institution that preserves and maintains art objects of specific cultural and social value to our community and maintains professional and ethical excellence in all its operations by adhering to the standards set forth by the American Alliance of Museums