The Meadows Museum is committed to the advancement of knowledge and understanding of art through the collection and interpretation of works of the greatest aesthetic and historical importance, as exemplified by the founding collection of Spanish art. The museum is a resource of Southern Methodist University that serves a broad and international audience as well as the university community through meaningful exhibitions, publications, workshops, and other educational programs and encourages public participation through a broad-based membership.
During business trips to Spain in the 1950s, Texas philanthropist and oil financier Algur H. Meadows spent many hours at the Museo Nacional del Prado in Madrid. The Prado’s spectacular collection of Spanish masterpieces inspired Meadows to begin his own collection of Spanish art. In 1962, through The Meadows Foundation, he gave Southern Methodist University funds for the construction and endowment of a museum to house his Spanish collection. The Meadows Museum opened in 1965 as part of the new Owen Arts Center at SMU. In the years that followed, Algur Meadows provided the impetus and funds for an aggressive, but highly selective, acquisitions program through which an extraordinary collection was developed in a remarkably short period of time. Since his death in 1978, The Meadows Foundation and numerous donors have provided ongoing support for continued development of the museum’s permanent collection, nearly doubling its collection of paintings. The Foundation gave a gift of $18.5 million in 1998 for construction of a new museum building on campus to showcase the collection and provide more space for special exhibitions and educational programs; the new building opened in March 2001. In 2006, the Foundation gave $33 million to the Meadows School of the Arts, the largest grant ever made by the Foundation and the largest ever received by SMU at the time, which included $25 million for the museum for acquisitions, exhibitions, an educational curator position, an expanded educational program, and special initiatives of the museum director. The Museum celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2015, during which The Meadows Foundation made yet another historic gift to SMU of $45 million, $25 million of which was designated to support goals and programs at the Museum.
About our Founder
Born in 1899, Algur Hurtle Meadows grew up the third of seven children in Vidalia, Georgia. Meadows entered the oil business in 1921 as an accountant for Standard Oil Company in Shreveport, Louisiana. While at Standard, he obtained a law degree from Centenary College and in 1926 was admitted to the Louisiana State Bar. In 1928, he and a partner founded the General Finance Company, a syndicate of small-loan finance companies that became the General American Finance System in 1930. In 1936, he and two colleagues founded the General American Oil Company, and in 1937, General American moved its headquarters from Shreveport to Dallas. The company grew quickly in size and assets, due largely to an ingenious financing method developed by Meadows for acquiring oil-producing properties. By 1959, the company had acquired almost three thousand oil wells in fifteen states and Canada. Meadows believed that his life was greatly enriched by giving, and he demonstrated his commitment to philanthropic causes in 1948, when he and his first wife, Virginia, created The Meadows Foundation. Majority-governed by the Meadows family, the Foundation continues to advance Meadows’s legacy, and has disbursed over $550 million in grants and direct charitable expenditures to over 2,000 Texas institutions and agencies.
General American Oil Company begins searching for oil in Spain in the early 1950s. The venture is commercially unsuccessful, but it affords Meadows the opportunity to spend extended periods of time there. Meadows begins building his collection with the help of Jerónimo Seisdedos, a retired employee of the Prado Museum. After Seisdedos’s death in 1958, Meadows turns to José López Jiménez, a painter, scholar, and art critic who worked under the pseudonym Bernardino de Pantorba. Pantorba advises Meadows well into the 1960s, recommending the purchase of more than sixty paintings.
Meadows’s wife, the former Virginia Stuart Garrison, dies one day before their 39th anniversary; Meadows announces he will donate their art collection to Southern Methodist University.
Through The Meadows Foundation, Algur H. Meadows donates funds to SMU for the construction and endowment of a museum to hold his growing collection of Spanish Art. Meadows meets and marries Elizabeth Boggs Bartholow. An artist herself, Elizabeth prefers modern works to those of the old masters, and encourages Meadows to expand his collection to include sculpture and French art, which he does with the help of the eccentric millionaire and art dealer Fernand Legros and his partner, Real Lessard.
April 3 – Dedication and opening of the Meadows Museum in the Owen Arts Center Building at SMU (pictured, far left).
• Early 1967 – Art Dealers Association of America vice president writes to Mr. Meadows and informs him that many works in his collection are misattributed: The authenticity of several works in the Museum is questioned. Algur H. Meadows determines that the new Museum should contain works of the finest possible quality and a search begins for a curator to remove and replace the questioned pieces.
• Dr. William B. Jordan (pictured, left) joins Museum as director and a new phase of collecting begins and continues until Algur Meadows’s death in 1978, during which the core of the present collection was formed.
• The Museum acquires Goya’s Yard with Madmen. This painting had not been seen by the public since 1922.
• Acquisition of Velázquez’s Portrait of King Philip IV (pictured, left).
Meadows is quoted in the Houston Chronicle as saying, “I mean…to build a small Prado in Texas,” and the Museum is nicknamed “Prairie Prado” by TIME magazine.
• Clifford Irving writes Fake! The Story of Elmyr De Hory, the Greatest Art Forger of Our Time, featuring the story of Algur H. Meadows (pictured, left).
• May – Algur H. Meadows gives $10 million to SMU’s School of the Arts and the school was renamed Meadows School of the Arts.
• The Museum deaccessions a notable portion of the original misattributed collection.
• Algur H. Meadows makes another major donation of works of art to the Meadows Museum, this time in the form of a collection of modern sculptures by European and American artists. Included in the collection are works by Alberto Giacometti, Auguste Rodin, Henry Moore, David Smith, and Aristide Maillol.
• The Museum acquires Picasso’s Still Life in a Landscape, (pictured, left).
The Museum commissions an important sculpture, Geometric Mouse, by Claes Oldenburg, (pictured, left).
Meadows Museum acquires second Velázquez painting, Female Figure (Sibyl with Tabula Rasa). The eloquent figure is among the most enigmatic of Velázquez’s canvases, representing the artist at the height of his power.
• Meadows Museum hires its first Curator of Education, Nancy Berry, who establishes the first docent program, run by both SMU students and volunteers, along with an array of educational programs for the SMU and Dallas community.
• Acquisition of Ribera’s Portrait of the Knight of Santiago.
• February – Meadows exhibits Andy Warhol’s Portraits (pictured, far left and middle).
• Meadows Museum acquires third Velázquez painting, Portrait of Queen Mariana.
• June 10 – Algur H. Meadows, (pictured, left), is killed in an auto accident; he dies before his final Velázquez arrives at the Museum.
• November 1 – December 3, 1978 Homage to Algur H. Meadows (1899-1978): Contemporary Paintings on view in honor of the late founder.
Isamu Noguchi’s sculpture Spirit’s Flight, (pictured, left), is commissioned by the Meadows School of the Arts to symbolize the Algur H. Meadows Award for Excellence in the Arts.
March – Meadows Museum opens Luis Meléndez: Spanish Still-Life Painter of the Eighteenth Century.
The Meadows Museum is renovated for the addition of special exhibition galleries.
• September 21, 1988 Paloma Picasso (pictured, left) exhibits at the Meadows Museum and showcases her handbags.
• Grand Noir, one of the most important works by modern Spanish master Antoni Tàpies, is acquired.
May – Exhibition Ignacio Zuloaga, 1870-1945 opens.
A major work by Juan Bautista Maíno, The Adoration of the Shepherds, is acquired.
May – The Meadows Foundation gives $1.5 million (left) for the architectural design of a new museum building, intended to significantly expand facilities for research, exhibition and educational programming. Chicago-based architectural firm Hammond Beeby Rupert Ainge is selected.
• April 2 – The Meadows Foundation gives $18.5 million for construction of new building and for the establishment of endowments for ongoing building maintenance and expanded educational programming.
• December 3 – Groundbreaking of new Meadows Museum building, (pictured, left).
• Acquisition of the only El Greco in the collection (St. Francis Kneeling in Meditation, 1605-1616).
• March 7 – Topping-out ceremony for the new Meadows Museum, (pictured far left).
• May – Highlights of the collection travel to Spain, (pictured, left), and are on display at the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza (Madrid), followed by the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya (Barcelona).
March 25 – Dedication of the new Museum building by H.R.H. King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofía of Spain, (pictured, below).
Wave, Santiago Calatrava’s kinetic outdoor sculpture, is dedicated, (pictured, left).
• Meadows Foundation gives $25 million to Museum for acquisitions, exhibitions, education and director spending.
• Mark Roglán, (pictured, left), named director of the Meadows Museum.
Balenciaga and His Legacy, the first fashion exhibition developed and hosted by the Museum, opens at the Meadows Museum, (pictured, right).
• Fernando Gallego and His Workshop opens at the Meadows after 5 years of study and research in collaboration with the Kimbell Art Museum and the University of Arizona Art Museum, (pictured, right).
• Meadows Museum exhibits From Manet to Miró: Modern Drawings from the Abelló Collection, the first partnership with Juan Abelló and Anna Gamazo.
October 7 – Dedication of new sculpture plaza, which highlights the Museum’s newly acquiredmonumental sculpture, Sho by Jaume Plensa, (pictured, left).
• September- Prado Partnership begins with loan of El Greco’s Pentecost, (pictured, right).
• The Museum acquires a full length portrait of King Charles II, by Juan Carreño de Miranda.
• Start of the Meadows/Kress/Prado Fellowship.
• The Museum acquires Vicente López y Portaña’s portrait of the American, Richard Worsam Meade, the father of the Union General George Gordon Meade.
• Sorolla and America opens at the Meadows Museum after 5 five years of research and study. Exhibition continues to The San Diego Museum of Art and Fundación MAPFRE (Madrid).
• Meadows Museum acquires a sixth Goya painting, Portrait of Mariano Goya, the Artist’s Grandson, 1827, (pictured, left).
Start of the Meadows/Mellon/Fellowship.
The Museum celebrates its 50th anniversary with a historic commemoration ceremony, visits by former U.S. President George W. Bush and the Duke of Alba, and spectacular exhibitions of major private Spanish collections. The Meadows Foundation makes yet another historic gift to SMU of $45 million, $25 million of which is designated for the Museum.
The Museum acquires its first painting by Salvador Dalí, L’homme poisson (1930).
The Meadows Museum is housed in a two-story collegiate Georgian red brick building of approximately 66,000 square feet that was designed by Chicago-based architects Hammond Beeby Rupert Ainge and opened in 2001. The first floor includes a museum shop, an education studio, a classroom, an auditorium, and several public areas suitable for receptions and other events. Underground parking provides all-weather access for museum visitors.
The Meadows Museum dedicated its plaza and sculpture garden, designed by Dallas-based Swiss architect Thomas Krähenbühl of TKTR architects, in October 2009. The museum entrance includes fountains and access stairs leading to the sculpture plaza from Bishop Boulevard. The plaza features a permanent installation of monumental modern and contemporary sculpture by major artists, including the centerpiece of the plaza, Sho (2007), a 13-foot-tall sculpture by contemporary Spanish artist Jaume Plensa. The plaza’s innovative design features four strategically located overlooks which provide shady, peaceful areas to view the sculptures. One of the overlooks provides a dramatic view of Santiago Calatrava’s moving sculpture Wave (2002), permanently installed below the plaza at street level.
The plaza and the Plensa sculpture acquisition were made possible through the support of patrons including Nancy Hamon and the late Jake Hamon, The Eugene McDermott Foundation, The Meadows Foundation, Richard and Gwen Irwin, The Pollock Foundation, the family of Mr. and Mrs. Richard R. Pollock and the family of Lawrence S. Pollock, III.
Prado at the Meadows
On September 12, 2010, officials from SMU, the Meadows Museum, and the Museo Nacional del Prado gathered at the Meadows to sign an agreement for the loan of three major paintings from the Prado over the course of three years and the exchange of curatorial fellows between the two institutions. The partnership was inaugurated on the same day with the opening at the Meadows of El Greco’s Pentecost in a New Context. Building upon the success of the first two years of this collaboration, on July 11, 2012, the Meadows and the Prado announced the expansion of their partnership. As Miguel Zugaza Miranda, Director of the Prado, remarked: “This agreement … realizes the vision of Al Meadows to start ‘a small Prado in Texas.’” Grants from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Samuel H. Kress Foundation provide additional support to the Meadows/Prado curatorial fellowships.
Selected Media Coverage
Reconsidered, a Met Velázquez Is Vindicated
The New York Times, December 20, 2010
Why The Meadows’ El Greco Exhibitions Are About So Much More Than the Pentecost
dmagazine.com, September 22, 2010
El Greco Masterpiece comes to Meadows
Art & Seek, September 14, 2010
Between Heaven and Hell: The Drawings of Jusepe de Ribera
March 12 – June 11, 2017
The Spanish Gesture: Drawings From Murillo to Goya in the Hamburger Kunsthalle
May 25-August 31, 2014
Impressions of Europe: 19th-Century Vistas by Martín Rico
March 10-July 7, 2013
Diego Velázquez: The Early Court Portraits
September 16, 2012- January 13, 2013
The Prado at the Meadows: Ribera in a New Context
September 18, 2011 – January 15, 2012
The Prado at the Meadows: El Greco Pentecost in a New Context
September 12, 2010 – February 6, 2011