The Indianapolis Museum of Art
is an art museum in Indianapolis
The Indianapolis Museum of Art is among the largest and oldest general art museums in the United States. The museum traces its founding to October 11, 1883, when 18 Indianapolis residents signed articles of incorporation to establish the Art Association of Indianapolis. Among the founders was May Wright Sewall
(1844–1920), who was known during her lifetime for her work in the women’s suffrage movement and as a founder of the International Council of Women.
The association’s first exhibition, in November 1883, included paintings by American artists William Merritt Chase (1849–1916) and Alfred Thompson Bricher (1837–1908). The association’s first permanent museum and art school, the John Herron Art Institute and Herron School of Art, opened in 1906 at Pennsylvania and 16th streets in Indianapolis. In 1969, the Art Association of Indianapolis changed its name to Indianapolis Museum of Art, and in 1970 the museum moved to a new and much larger building on Michigan Road, a few miles northwest of the downtown area. Four new pavilions have been added to the original building since 1970, and the most recent expansion added to the museum.
Among the museum’s early supporters were Eli Lilly (1885–1977), president of Eli Lilly and Company from 1932 to 1948; author Booth Tarkington (1869–1946); Herman C. Krannert (1887–1972), founder of Inland Container Corporation; and Caroline Marmon Fesler (1878–1960), who purchased paintings by Paul Cézanne, Vincent van Gogh, Georges Seurat, Pablo Picasso and other important artists for the museum.
The main floor houses primarily pre-20th century European and American artwork, the second floor non-Western artwork, and the third floor modern art by such artists as James Turrell and Vito Acconci.
The museum now has a permanent collection of more than 50,000 works of art that span the range and scope of art history. In addition to housing its art collections, the museum is also a showcase for national and international exhibitions. Among its most significant collections are the following:
Eli Lilly Collection of Chinese Art
Assembled by the Indianapolis businessman and philanthropist Eli Lilly between 1930 and 1960, this collection is among the finest in the United States. The nearly 200 pieces include porcelain, ceramics, bronzes, paintings and jades spanning 4,000 years, from the Neolithic
period to the Qing dynasty
Chinese Painting of the Ming and Qing Dynasties
With support from Lilly Endowment Inc., in 2004 the museum acquired 28 important Ming
- and Qing-dynasty paintings. Complementing paintings acquired for the museum by Eli Lilly, these masterworks are by the most significant artists of their periods, including Shen Zhou
, Wu Bin
, Chen Hongshou
, and Hongren
R. Norris Shreve Collection of Chinese Jade
An extensive collection of jade
, including personal ornaments, objects for the scholar’s table, human and animal figures, and vessels were given to the museum by Professor Shreve, of Purdue University, in 1971.
The museum’s collection of Edo
-period paintings is one of the finest in the country. It features works by masters from the most important painting schools of the time—the Kano
, and Nanga
schools—as well as works by individual artists like Soga Shōhaku
, and by anonymous town painters. The Edo collection is supported by a handful of earlier masterpieces from the late 14th century through the 16th century, while a growing number of later works illustrate the continuity of traditions through the Meiji period
down to modern times.
Eiteljorg Collection of African Art
With a single gift of more than 1,200 works, in 1989 the Indianapolis industrialist Harrison Eiteljorg and his wife, Sonja, established the museum as the home of one of the nation’s most important collections of African art. The museum had begun acquiring African objects and textiles decades earlier, and with recent acquisitions building upon the Eiteljorg gift, the collection now represents all the major regions of Africa, including ancient Egypt
The Clowes Collection
Old master portraits, landscapes and paintings of religious subjects comprise this collection, which was formed during the 1930s, ’40s, and ’50s by Dr. George H. A. Clowes and Edith Whitehill Clowes of Indianapolis. Exhibited at the museum since 1972, the Clowes Collection includes masterworks by artists such as Rembrandt
, Jusepe de Ribera
, and Peter Paul Rubens
Caroline Marmon Fesler Painting Collection
Chosen for the museum by Indianapolis arts patron Caroline Marmon Fesler during
the 1940s, the collection features many of the museum’s masterpieces of landscape painting, including works by the 17th-century Dutch artists Meindert Hobbema
, Aelbert Cuyp
, and Jacob van Ruisdael
; the Post-Impressionists
Paul Cézanne, Georges Seurat, and Vincent van Gogh; and the American modernist Georgia O’Keeffe
paintings by Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque
are also included.
The most comprehensive collection of its kind in North America, the museum’s holdings document the Neo-Impressionist
movement in France, Belgium, and the Netherlands. In addition to Georges Seurat’s Channel of Gravelines, Petit Fort Philippe
, the museum possesses the entire collection of the late Indianapolis industrialist W. J. Holliday, which includes paintings by Paul Signac
, Maximilien Luce
, Henry van de Velde
, and Théo van Rysselberghe
. Rare works by Lucien Pissarro
, Alfred William Finch
, and Jan Toorop
were acquired in recent years.
The Josefowitz Collection of Gauguin and the School of Pont-Aven
Through a challenge grant from Lilly Endowment Inc., in 1998 the museum acquired 17 paintings from the collection of the Swiss entrepreneur Samuel Josefowitz. Works by Paul Gauguin
, Emile Bernard
, Paul Sérusier
, and others illustrate the bold colors and patterns adopted by the progressive artists working in the Breton village of Pont-Aven during the 1880s and ’90s. Together with 84 rare prints given by Josefowitz, they constitute the richest Pont-Aven School
collection in America.
Landscapes in the luminist
style and figure paintings by the United States’ leading Impressionists
are a highlight of the museum’s American collection. Artists such as Childe Hassam
, John Henry Twachtman
, Frank Weston Benson
, and William Merritt Chase
are represented, as well as the expatriates Frederick Carl Frieseke
, Richard E. Miller, and Louis Ritman, who worked in Giverny, the French village that was the home of Claude Monet
Pantzer Collection of Works by J.M.W. Turner
Among the museum’s most renowned holdings is the Pantzer Collection of works by J. M. W. Turner
. In 1937, the Indianapolis attorney Kurt F. Pantzer began building a collection of the 19th-century English master’s watercolors, which were, at the time, largely unknown in America. Over a period of 40 years, he acquired 38 Turner drawings and watercolors, nearly 3,000 impressions of Turner’s prints, important watercolors by Turner’s major contemporaries, rare Turner letters, and even rarer portraits of the reclusive English master of landscape painting.
The museum’s long tradition of collecting works by Indiana artists has created extensive holdings of 19th-century painters such as Jacob Cox
and George Winter, as well as the museum’s special strength in the work of the “Hoosier Group
,” which includes landscapes and figural subjects by T. C. Steele
, J. Ottis Adams
, William Forsyth
, Otto Stark
, and Richard Gruelle
. Artists active in Brown County
, Indianapolis, and elsewhere during the second quarter of the 20th century are also well represented.
Gifts of the Gamboliers
At its founding in 1883, the museum began acquiring prints and drawings
by contemporary American artists, but French modernism was considered
too radical to purchase. To address this void, in 1928 the Indianapolis native Mary Quinn Sullivan
, who one year later would co-found the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, organized a group of local supporters who dubbed themselves the “Gamboliers.” They agreed to make annual contributions toward acquisitions of French and American modernist works. In five years, the Gamboliers presented 167 prints and drawings to the museum, by artists such as Georges Braque, Henri Matisse
, Amedeo Modigliani
, Pablo Picasso, Maurice Prendergast
, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
English and European Porcelain of the 18th and 19th Centuries
The museum has developed a fine selection of porcelain from the leading manufactories in England and continental Europe. The English holdings comprise objects from Worcester, Chelsea, Derby, Bow, and Wedgwood
, while the French pieces feature significant works from Sèvres
and Vincennes. Germany and Austria are exceptionally well represented by figures from Meissen, Ludwigsburg, Höchst, Frankenthal, and Vienna.
Marilyn and Eugene Glick Collection of Studio Glass
Spanning five decades of studio glass production, the Glick Collection features works by contemporary American and European masters. Committed to the Indianapolis Museum of Art in the 1990s, the Glick Collection represents a variety of techniques and most of the key artists working in the medium, including Harvey Littleton
, Dale Chihuly
, Howard Ben Tré
, and Bertil Vallien
When the museum purchased an Irish embroidery in 1888, it became one of the first American art museums to initiate a textile collection. Between 1916 and 1933, more than 3,000 pieces entered the museum, gifts from Indiana native Admiral Albert Niblack and his sisters Eliza and Sarah. The Niblacks’ gifts form the nucleus of the museum’s extensive holdings in textiles and costumes from China, Japan, Southeast Asia, and Indonesia. A critical strength in western Asian weavings was established in 1996, when the museum received 65 rare Baluchi rugs
from the collection of the late Colonel Jeff Boucher. It is the largest collection of its kind in a public institution in the United States.
The rich textile arts of Africa are a highlight of the museum’s collections. Embroideries and rugs from Morocco
, donated by the Niblack family and supplemented by additional pieces in recent years, make it the most important collection of its kind in the United States. Weavings from western and central African cultures, acquired steadily since the 1970s, represent many of the other important textile traditions of the continent.
Evening Dress made famous in the Richard Avedon
with Elephants"]]The Fashion Arts collection features holdings in women’s costumes and accessories of 19th- and 20th-century Europe and America. Creations by the designers Norman Norell
, Bill Blass
, and Halston
—all natives of Indiana—are an area of special emphasis.
The Indianapolis Museum of Art is the cornerstone of IMA, which is composed of three complementary parts and also includes Oldfields–Lilly House & Gardens and the Virginia B. Fairbanks Art & Nature Park. The three entities cover approximately .
Oldfields–Lilly House & Gardens
A National Historic Landmark
, Oldfields–Lilly House & Gardens is an elegant 26 acre estate and historic house museum located on the grounds of IMA. At the heart of Oldfields is Lilly House, the 22-room mansion that was once the home of Josiah K. Lilly Jr.
, the late Indianapolis businessman, collector and philanthropist. Lilly House has undergone historic restoration and is now open to the public. Oldfields' gardens and grounds were designed in the 1920s by Percival Gallagher
of the landscape architecture firm Olmsted Brothers
Lilly House features eight furnished historic rooms on the main level. The majority of these rooms reflect the 1930s period of the Lilly family's occupancy, and almost 90 percent of the furnishings and decorative arts objects featured belonged to the Lillys and were used in the home.
The upper level of Lilly House, which offers expansive views of Oldfields' landscape and gardens, features historical and interactive exhibits, where visitors may learn more about the American Country Place era, Oldfields' development as a country estate, and Indianapolis in the early 20th century. The second level also features samples of J. K. Lilly's collections of books, gold coins, military miniatures and nautical items.
Virginia B. Fairbanks Art & Nature Park
Adjacent to the museum and located on that includes untamed woodlands, wetlands, meadows and a 35 acre lake, the Virginia B. Fairbanks Art & Nature Park will be one of the largest museum art parks in the country, and the only one to feature the ongoing commission of site-specific artworks. When it opens in fall 2009, the Park will present art projects, exhibitions and discussions designed to strengthen the public’s understanding of the unique, reciprocal relationships between contemporary art and the natural world.
Recently, the Indianapolis Museum of Art unveiled the concepts for eight site specific commissions, which will inaugurate the Park when it opens in fall 2009. Atelier Van Lieshout, Kendall Buster, Alfredo Jaar, Jeppe Hein, Los Carpinteros, Tea Mäkipää, Type A, and Andrea Zittel, will create temporary, site-specific works that explore and respond to the varied environments of the Fairbanks Art & Nature Park. These eight artists will be the first in a series of ongoing commissions.
The Park site is bordered by the White River and adjacent to the IMA’s current 52 acre campus. Commissions for the park will be ongoing, with additional artists’ projects to be announced annually. The land, a former gravel pit, has evolved through a natural reclamation into its current state of untamed woodlands and wetlands. The IMA has engaged architect Marlon Blackwell and landscape architect Edward L. Blake to work with the selected artists to transform the into an unparalleled art and nature park.
Architects for the project hope to achieve LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.
The Fairbanks Foundation, named for the late Richard M. Fairbanks, has committed $15 million for construction of the park. Mr. Fairbanks was a leader and innovator in radio broadcasting, founded the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Network and brought WIBC radio to prominence in Indianapolis. Fairbanks Art & Nature Park is named for Virginia Nicholson Brown Fairbanks, his wife.
- David J. Bodenhamer and Robert G. Barrows, eds. The Encyclopedia of Indianapolis. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1994. ISBN 0-253-31222-1
- Indianapolis Museum of Art. The Story of the Indianapolis Museum of Art. Indianapolis Museum of Art, 1998. ISBN 0-936260-67-X
- Indianapolis Museum of Art. Indianapolis Museum of Art: Highlights of the Collection. Indianapolis Museum of Art, 2005. ISBN 0-936260-77-7