The Meadows Collects: 50 Years of Spanish Art in Texas
By 1952, the Dallas-based General American Oil Company had begun searching for oil in Spain. After having discovered vast gas reserves in Canada, the company’s founder, Algur Hurtle Meadows (1899-1978) hoped to meet with similar luck across the Atlantic.
General American was ultimately forced to declare defeat; oil and gas were never discovered in sufficient quantities for a moneymaking venture. While commercially unsuccessful, the company’s foray into Spain afforded Meadows the opportunity to spend extended periods of time in the country. Living in Madrid’s Ritz Hotel, just steps from the Museo del Prado, he was able to spend hours wandering its galleries and developing a passion for Spanish art.
Few prominent American collectors at the time were interested in the works of Spanish painters, and Meadows felt sure he could find notable paintings at reasonable prices. In a 1967 interview with Life Magazine, he remarked:
You’re bored, you know, with nothing to do and so you stroll over to the Prado and learn so much about each painter. I remember when I saw a full-page color reproduction in an American magazine on El Greco and I thought to myself, with this type of display he must be considered as the world’s greatest. To me at that time, I thought it would give certain elegance to the home, a few Old Masters. Besides, it would be foolish to be around this great Prado museum and not pick up some works by painters they had that must still be there, right?
While Meadows initially conceived of his collection as a private one, this would soon change. In 1961, shortly after the death of his first wife, Virginia, Meadows announced that he would donate their art collection to Southern Methodist University and provide $1 million to found a museum to house the collection. Designed by Dallas architect George Dahl, the Virginia Meadows Museum was dedicated four years later, on April 3, 1965.
On April 3, 2015, fifty years will have passed since Algur Meadows first realized his dream of creating a “small Prado in Texas.” How has the Museum developed from 1965 to 2015? How did it withstand early scandals involving crooked art dealers and forgeries to become one of the leading institutions of Spanish art outside of Spain? On view from April 18 until August 2, The Meadows Collects: 50 Years of Spanish Art in Texas, will answer these questions through a display highlighting defining moments in the Museum’s history.
This event has been organized by the Meadows Museum. It is part of the Museum’s Golden Anniversary, which is sponsored by The Meadows Foundation, The Moody Foundation, the Dallas Tourism Public Improvement District and the Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau. Media sponsorship has been provided by The Dallas Morning News.