Fine Arts Museum News

Museum Celebrates its 75th Anniversary

Michele & Donald D'Amour Museum of Fine Arts

May 13, 2009

The Michele and Donald D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts will celebrate its 75th anniversary with a multi-gallery exhibition that highlights the history of the museum through the artwork it has acquired, exhibited, and loaned through the years. A Tradition of Excellence: The D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts Celebrates 75 Years will be on view from May 29, 2009, through February 21, 2010.

Paintings from the D’Amour Museum collection have been seen by hundreds of thousands of museum-goers in exhibitions around the globe. A highlight of the anniversary exhibition is a large map pinpointing the many places where objects from the museum collection have been shown. Small images of the touring works will be linked to the map. Some of these works of art were selected by the host museum to promote their exhibition. Examples on display will include a poster featuring the museum’s 19th-century French painting by Corot that was seen throughout Paris announcing a major exhibit of the artist’s work, and a custom-designed champagne label featuring the museum’s Degas that was produced in honor of a Degas exhibition in Australia.


The anniversary exhibit will also feature important artists from Springfield and the Pioneer Valley whose work has been shown in the museum and added to the permanent collection. Among them are Randall Deihl, Leonard Baskin, Wolf Kahn, Josh Simpson and Douglas Brega.


Another section of the exhibit will present works of art that were either created or acquired by the museum in each decade since its founding. These range from French Impressionist paintings by Pissarro and Renoir to a sculpture by Picasso and a contemporary work by glass artist Dale Chihuly.


A detail of the museum’s Sante Graziani mural will be highlighted as an example of art created in the 1930s and ’40s under the Works Progress Administration (WPA), one of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal agencies. During the same time period, a photograph of the exterior of the newly opened museum was used as the example for “art museum” in a 1935 children’s book.


The idea for the Museum of Fine Arts originated with James Philip Gray (1835-1904) and his wife, Julia Emma Burbank Gray (1846-1930). Although they did not collect art themselves, they left their entire estate for the “selection, purchase, preservation and exhibition of the most valuable, meritorious, artistic and high-class oil paintings obtainable” and for the construction of a museum to house them. By 1935, the museum owned a significant collection of 19th- and 20th-century American paintings and a growing collection of old master paintings. Over the last 75 years, the collection has continued to grow through the generosity of gifts and bequests as well as purchases. Today, the museum houses over 6,000 objects and provides an overview of European, American and Asian art. In 2008, the museum was renamed in honor of the major donors Michele and Donald D’Amour.


In addition to the artwork on display, a montage of vintage photos of museum activities with information about major donors through the years will trace the museum’s distinguished history.


A Tradition of Excellence: The D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts Celebrates 75 Years is funded in part by a grant from the Springfield Cultural Council, a local agency supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council. Additional support has been provided by Michael and Carol Sleeper of Imperial Distributors, Inc.; and Bozzuto’s, Inc.

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