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.
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 Pacific, Hawaii, andCentennial. South 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.