The Texas Fine Arts Association, the earliest organization to promote art activity throughout the state, was founded on April 6, 1911, in honor of Elisabet Ney, a sculptor who had established her studio, which she called Formosa, in Austin in 1892. The organization was started informally at Formosa by Julia Pease, Bride Neill Taylor, Emma Richardson Cherry, Emma Kyle Burleson, Anna Pennybacker, Ella Peyton Dancy Dibrell, Johanna Runge, Oline Sayers, Mary Mitchell, and Anita Miller, who wanted to establish a shrine for Ney, to pave the way for a state art gallery, and to promote and give identity to the arts in Texas. Dibrell had bought the studio and its contents in 1908, the year after Ney's death, in order to preserve the property and the art. The site provided the group with a physical home as well as gallery space for the semi-annual art shows it instituted. The first officers were James W. McClendon, president; Joseph D. Sayers, Sidney E. Mezes, and Joseph B. Dibrell, vice presidents; Mary Mitchell, secretary; Laura Driskill, assistant secretary; and Julia Pease, treasurer. The original constitution and bylaws called for the election for one year of those officers plus twelve directors. The annual meetings were designated for the first Tuesday in April. During the first annual meeting, it was decided that the association would form one committee to promote the establishment of an art school in connection with the University of Texas and another committee to encourage legislation to establish a state arts commission. In 1909 Ney's widower, Edmund D. Montgomery, and the Dibrells signed an agreement with the university which gave the Ney sculpture collection at Formosa to the university but provided that it remain at the studio as long as an organization would maintain it there. On May 18, 1929, the charter for the Texas Fine Arts Association Holding Company was established to receive the Elisabet Ney Museum from the Dibrells.
The association developed semiannual exhibitions, one for members in the fall and one for all Texas artists in the spring. In 1942 the association began to jury the shows to limit the size and to maintain standards. In 1927 it began a visual arts touring program that brought selected works to communities throughout Texas; within two years the association was receiving more requests for the circuit exhibitions than it could fill. Until 1929 the program was under the directorship of James Chillman, Jr., the director of the Houston Museum of Fine Arts, but in 1932 the program was moved to Austin, and Jodie B. Roberdeau, secretary of the association and later its acting president, took over its administration. The touring program was still active in 1988. In 1941 the association began to publish a newsletter, the Texas Fine Arts News. That year the membership deeded the Ney Museum to the City of Austin in exchange for maintenance of the grounds and building. In 1943 Clara Driscoll, owner of the estate at Laguna Gloria, deeded that property to the association along with a gift of $5,000. The property was intended to be used as the association's long-cherished state art gallery, but it became the exhibition hall for the association's own exhibitions and is now a private art museum. In 1942 the association began an International Exhibition of Prints and Drawings, and in 1951 they sponsored the first annual All-Texas Arts and Crafts Fair at City Coliseum, which brought 3,500 visitors. In 1953 the association held a Texas Fine Arts Festival, which was aided considerably when the Metropolitan Museum of New York offered works by old masters and contemporary New York artists. In 1961 the Laguna Gloria Art Museum, Incorporated, was made a separate chapter of the association so it could assume responsibility for the museum's operation. In 1966 the Texas Fine Arts Holding Company merged with the museum. The association retained two persons on the museum's board of directors, maintained an office on the museum grounds, and presented two exhibitions a year, the New American Talent juried from a nationwide call for entries and the Texas Annual for Texas artists. Selected works are sent on tour. The association in 1988 was governed by a statewide board of twenty-four, half of whom were artists. It presented seminars, conferences, and educational services for members as well as for nonmembers. The Collectors' Circle educated and encouraged collectors of art by offering lectures, meetings with artists, and acquaintance with other collectors. In 1988 membership was 1,800.