Into the Dallas Museum of Art

One of the things I’ve been looking forward to in the Dallas Fort Worth area is visiting the museums. The first of these was the Dallas Museum of Art. I didn’t quite know what to expect, of the museums in the region the one I had heard the most about was the Kimbell Museum in Fort Worth.

It was Sunday and I was able to find a parking meter in front of the building. I only had a little over an hour worth of change, and the limit was two hours, so I returned to assume the balance. Perhaps coming from New York led to the perception that there wouldn’t be two hours worth of art inside. It soon became clear that conception was a misperception. In fact, I only toured a small portion of the museum on this initial visit.

The first stop was the American Galleries on the fourth floor. Walking through these galleries there is hardly cause for want of better things to look at. It made me wonder why there seems to be little interest in collecting or decorating with this style of furniture around Dallas. I see have seen very little of it in shops and galleries. Everything seems to be imported from Europe; perhaps there’s merit to the idea of bringing a few truckloads in from the Northeast.

I’ve been told that show patrons here are far more interested in decorating. That’s fine, and it’s great to see all this interest in using antiques to decorate. Great collections don’t often come into being with that goal, however, and I wonder if there is a role to be played on the part of the Dallas Museum of Art with instilling a spirit locally of collecting American decorative arts.

My favorite object in the collection is a Philadelphia side chair 1740-1753. The label doesn’t provide much information other that these basic facts, but the design and carving here is particularly pleasing. I only wish my furniture books were out of storage so I could attempt to look for similar examples. Another armchair also labeled as having Philadelphia origins began to engage me when I noticed a knot in the chair splat wood had been placed in a central position. It’s a great element you might expect in a piece of folk art that adds a great deal of personality here.

There are also a number of exceptional paintings to be found here including Summer Foliage by George Inness. It’s not hard to pull me into an Inness painting, but this one immediately brought a strong emotional response. To me, Inness is clearly painting what’s not there, or perhaps better said, what is there if you only had the benefit of the silence and self-knowledge you need to see it. To me this is one of the best works by this 19th Century master, in a class with Hazy Morning, Montclair, New Jersey at the Butler Institute of American Art in Youngstown, Ohio and Christmas Eve at the Montclair Art Museum.

My first trip didn’t afford the time necessary in the other galleries to comment further, but leaving the museum I was happy to know my new city has world-class collections I expect to enjoy for many years to come.

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