One of the major milestones in the history of the Blanton Museum of Art was the gift of almost 300 twentieth-century American paintings by the novelist James A. Michener and his wife Mari. (Michener lived his final years in Austin and was a big fan of the University of Texas and the Texas Longhorns women’s basketball team.) Given in two parcels, one in 1968 and one in 1991, The Blanton acknowledged this gift (which included works by Helen Frankenthaler, Richard Tuttle, Joan Mitchell and dozens of other artists, along with a financial contribution) by naming their new gallery building in honor of these generous donors.

Mari and James A. Michener

Mari and James A. Michener

Who was James A. Michener?  He is most famous for his novels of geographic locations, based on historical facts. The most well known are Tales of the South PacificHawaii, andCentennialSouth Pacific became the basis for a movie and for a Broadway musical by Rodgers and Hammerstein, and earned Michener the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1948. The author’s wife, Mari Yoriko Sabusawa Michener, was also a lover of art and played a key role with her husband in directing their donations to charity. In addition to their contributions to the Blanton, the Micheners established The James A. Michener Art Museum in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, which is best known for its collection of Pennsylvania Impressionist paintings.

Cadmium Red Over Black

Adolph Gottlieb’s Cadmium Red Over Black

Contributions of Art
Among the most prominent paintings gifted to the Blanton by the Micheners are Romance by Thomas Hart Benton and The Old Model/Old Spanish Woman by Robert Henri.  Others include Max Weber’s New York at Night,  Philip Evergood’s Dance Marathon, Adolph Gottlieb’s Cadmium Red over Black and Yasuo Kuniyoshi’s Waitresses from the Sparhwak.
Waitresses from Sparhawk

Yasuo Kuniyoshi’s Waitresses from Sparhawk, 1924-25

Financial Contributions
The Michener Acquisitions Fund has been used to acquire a number of paintings, such as Oil Field Girls by Jerry Bywaters, a favorite work of Blanton visitors.  Because of its popularity, this painting has practically become an emblem of the Blanton’s American art collection.
Jerry Bywaters Oil Field Girls

Jerry Bywaters Oil Field Girls, 1940

With works by Abstract Expressionists to Minimalists and more, the Michener’s gift serves as a cornerstone of the Blanton’s collection and is enjoyed by thousands of visitors annually.
Learn more about the Michener’s gift and other information about the Blanton’s collection by clicking here.
– Ray McLeod, Blanton Museum of Art Volunteer


2 Responses

  1. […] Blanton museum was founded with generous gifts ($5 million and artwork) from James A. Michener and Mari Yoriko Sabusawa. Visit the Michener […]

  2. […] Blanton museum was founded with generous gifts ($5 million and artwork) from James A. Michener and Mari Yoriko Sabusawa. Visit the Michener […]

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