Meadows Museum

By: Kendall Curlee

Type: General Entry

Published: April 1, 1995

The Meadows Museum is in the Owen Arts Center on the campus of Southern Methodist University in Dallas. It was founded in 1965 by oilman and philanthropist Algur Hurtle Meadows. Its permanent collection consists of some 100 paintings, 20 sculptures, and 350 works on paper, ranging in date from the late fifteenth to the early twentieth century. Most of the works are by Spanish artists, except for the sculptures, many of which are by nineteenth and twentieth century sculptors from elsewhere in Europe. Among the holdings are also a few prints and paintings by twentieth-century Mexican artists. Meadows's interest in Spanish art was prompted by his annual visits to Spain between 1952 and 1966, when his General American Oil Company of Texas had drilling rights in that country. He spent a great deal of time at the Prado Museum, just across the plaza from his hotel, and subsequently began acquiring works by Spanish painters. Meadows later gave his collection of Spanish paintings to Southern Methodist University and after his first wife died decided to honor her memory by donating money for a museum to house the collection. The Meadows Museum opened to the public in 1965.

In 1966 Meadows invited William B. Jordan to direct the new museum. On a visit to Dallas, Jordan and his teacher and colleague, José López-Rey, determined that many of the works earlier than the nineteenth century were falsely attributed. At Meadows's behest Jordan identified and replaced questionable works, a project in which he was helped by López-Rey and Diego Angulo Iñiguez, director of the Prado. By the mid-1980s the museum's collection was hailed by critics as one of the finest collections of Spanish art outside of Spain. Jordan emphasized building a small yet comprehensive collection of Spanish works of the highest quality. In a 1968 article Timemagazine dubbed the museum the "Prairie Prado," an exaggeration only in terms of size. The museum's greatest strength lies in its holdings of seventeenth-century painters. Diego Velázquez is represented by three paintings, including an early portrait of King Philip IV dated 1623–24 and the lyrical Sibyl with Tabula Rasa (1644–48). Other important seventeenth-century works in the collection include a large Immaculate Conception (ca. 1660–75) by Juan de Sevilla, The Flaying of St. Bartholomew (1666) by Juan Carreño de Miranda, The Mystical Marriage of St. Catherine (ca. 1630) by Francisco de Zurbarán, and two works by Jusepe de Ribera. Jordan also helped to rehabilitate Bartolomé Esteban Murillo's critical reputation by acquiring several of his major works. The artist most comprehensively represented in the collection is Francisco de Goya: the museum owns five of his paintings and first editions of his three major print series. One of the paintings, the Madhouse at Saragossa (1793–94), is particularly important, as it represents a turning point in Goya's career and the introduction of a new type of subject matter in art.

The Meadows Museum also contains an impressive collection of nineteenth-century Spanish painters active after Goya, including Mariano Fortuny, Vicente López, Antonio María Esquivel, José Jiménez Aranda, and others. Works of many of these painters are rarely seen outside of Spain, although their reputation is growing within the United States. Important twentieth-century Spanish painters such as Pablo Picasso, Juan Gris, and Joan Miró are represented in the collection; works by Mexican artists Diego Rivera and José Clemente Orozco have also been acquired. The museum has a polychrome wood sculpture of St. John the Baptist by seventeenth-century sculptor Juan Martínez Montañés, one of only a few works by that artist on display in the United States. The museum has a fine collection of modern sculpture in the Elizabeth Meadows Sculpture Garden, which displays works by Auguste Rodin, Aristide Maillol, Jacques Lipchitz, Henry Moore, Marino Marini, and Claes Oldenburg, among others.

The Meadows Museum forms a vital part of the Meadows School of the Arts, a complex of classrooms, studios, theaters, and other facilities devoted to the visual and performing arts that was endowed by the Meadows Foundation. The museum has amassed a research collection of 2,000 volumes on Spanish history and art, held in the Jake and Nancy Hamon Library. The Meadows Museum works closely with the SMU Ibero-American Studies program, which operates in Dallas and Madrid. The museum further supports the university community by mounting traveling art exhibitions in two adjacent galleries. It organized solo exhibitions of area artists Dan Wingren (1966), Roger Winter (1968, 1979), DeForrest Judd (1969, 1981), Jerry Bywaters (1976), David McManaway (1979), Debora Hunter (1989), and Robert Rauschenberg (1989), among others. It has also organized important group exhibitions such as Texas Painting and Sculpture: The 20th Century (1971) and One i at a Time (1971), as well as a number of traveling exhibitions with scholarly catalogues, including Luis Meléndez: Spanish Still-Life Painter of the Eighteenth Century (1985), Frida Kahlo (1989), The Texas Printmakers, 1940–1965 (1990), and The Art of Private Devotion: Retablo Painting of Mexico (1991). The Meadows Foundation provides annual grants for museum acquisitions and has paid for several renovations to the museum facility. The Meadows School of the Arts provides funds for the museum's operating and programming budgets. Jordan left the museum in 1980 to accept a position at the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth and was followed by several interim directors before Donald E. Knaub accepted the position in 1985. The Meadows Museum is a member of the American Association of Museums.

Marcus B. Burke and Donald E. Knaub, A Selection of Spanish Masterworks from the Meadows Museum (Dallas: Meadows Museum, Southern Methodist University, 1986). William B. Jordan, The Meadows Museum: A Visitor's Guide to the Collection (Dallas: Southern Methodist University, 1974). William B. Jordan, "The Meadows School of the Arts at SMU: Progress Report on a New Enterprise," Art Journal 29 (Spring 1970). Janet Kutner, "The `Prado of the Prairie'," ARTnews, May 1977. Paul Nathan, Texas Collects: Fine Art, Furniture, Windmills, and Whimseys (Dallas: Taylor, 1988).
  • Museums, Libraries, and Archives
  • Museums
  • Art Museums
  • Visual Arts
  • Education
  • Dallas/Fort Worth Region
  • Dallas
  • North Texas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Kendall Curlee, “Meadows Museum,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 23, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

April 1, 1995

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