Museum of Fine Arts Houston
Texas Art Gallery: History, Collection Highlights.

Museum of Fine Arts Houston (MFAH)


Main Exhibition Area
Facilities: Museums, Sculpture Garden, School
Permanent Collection
Contact Details

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National Gallery of Art Washington DC
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Albright-Knox Art Gallery
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Guggenheim, New York
Metropolitan Museum of Art
Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)
Whitney Museum of American Art
Barnes Foundation
Carnegie Museum of Art
Philadelphia Museum of Art


First opened to the public in 1924, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH) is one of the largest and best art museums in America. It is split into several different facilities and locations, but the 2 main art galleries are located in the heart of the museum district of Houston. The museum also owns 2 decorative arts house museums, 2 art schools, a sculptural garden, visitor center, cafe and movie theatre. The museum has over 62,000 pieces of art in its permanent collection, spanning 6,000 years of art history from all corners of the earth. A selection of these works is available to view online on the museum's website.

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
Museum of Fine Arts Boston
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J Paul Getty Museum Los Angeles
Art Institute of Chicago
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Museum of Fine Arts Houston is among the world's best art museums.


The site for the Museum of Fine Arts was dedicated in 1917 but the museum first opened its doors in 1924. Just prior to this opening the museum was bequeathed its first collection of important European and American oil paintings. During the 1930s and 1940s they continued to receive donations of various types of art, including prints, drawings and antiquities, from prominent Houston families. During the late 1950s and 1960s, the brilliant International Style architect Mies van der Rohe (1886-1969) designed the Cullinan Hall (1958) and the Brown Pavilion (1974) for the Caroline Weiss Law Building at the museum. Between 1970 and 1989 the museum almost doubled its collection fuelled by personal endowments and corporate donations. In 1974 John and Audrey Beck gave the museum a long-term loan of 50 Impressionism and Post-Impressionism paintings. Highlights include Impressionist paintings by Gustave Caillebotte (1848-94), Edgar Manet (1832-83), Andre Derain (1880-1954), Camille Pissarro (1830-1903), Georges Seurat (1859-91), Henri Matisse (1869-1954) and Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947). Today the museum continues to thrive and every year over a million people enjoy benefits of their exhibitions, workshops and resource centers.

Main Exhibition Area

The MFAH's main exhibition space, for both its permanent and temporary shows, is located across two buildings: The Caroline Wiess Law building and Audrey Jones Beck building. The Law building was originally constructed in 1924 but has been expanded significantly over the years. It houses a wide range of exhibits including Asian, Oceanic, Indonesian, Tribal, African and mesoamerican Pre-Columbian art, as well as art from the 20th and 21st century. Of particular note is the Glassell Collection of African Gold which includes a rare burial mask from Java. The Beck building was designed by Rafael Moneo, a Pritzker Architecture Prize Laureate and was opened in 2000.

Arts Facilities

Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens

A life trustee of the museum, Ima Hogg donated her home and garden to the MFAH in 1957. Designed by the architect John F Staub in 1927, it contains one of the finest collections of decorative art and furniture in America. The contents of paintings, furniture, glass objects, metals, ceramics and textiles were subsequently donated in 1962. Situated on 14 acres of woodland and formal gardens, the house is located about 8 km (5 miles) from the Law and Beck buildings. American art on view includes works by artists John Singleton Copley (1738-1815), Gilbert Stuart (1755-1828), and portraitists Charles Willson Peale (1741-1827) and Thomas Sully (1783-1872). Ceramics range from early slipware to 19th century popular Tucker porcelain.

Rienzi House Museum

The home of Carroll and Harris Masterson III, the Rienzi house was donated to the museum in 1991. Named after Masterson's grandfather, Rienzi Johnston, it is situated on 4 acres of land in Homewood Addition, in Houston's River Oaks neighbourhood. Also designed by John F Staub (in 1954), MFAH use the house to display their collection of European decorative arts.

Sculpture Garden

The Lillie and Hugh Roy Cullen Sculpture Garden connects the Law building and the Glassell School of Art. It was designed in 1986 by awarding winning landscape architect Isamu Noguchi. It contains over 25 items of sculpture from some of the most acclaimed sculptors of the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries including Auguste Rodin (1840-1917), sculptor, draughtsman and printmaker Alberto Giacometti (1901-66), Henri Matisse (1869-1954), Louise Nevelson (1899-1988) and Aristide Maillol (1861-1944).

Glassell School of Art

Founded in 1979 the Glassell School of Art offers a range of courses, workshops, and educational programs for students of all ages. It offers programs in a variety of mixed media, painting, printmaking, ceramics, watercolour painting, photography, sculpture and jewellery. Courses can be taken as a hobby through to undergraduate credit level. The school also organizes student and alumni exhibitions as well as hosts shows by professional artists in their Laura Lee Blanton Gallery. The school runs the Core Fellowship Program which is available to exceptional visual artists and critical writers who have completed their undergraduate or graduate training but have not yet established their artistic career. (See: Texas Art Schools.)

The Permanent Collection

The museum has a wide range of artworks representing the arts of all seven continents, many received as part of a private bequest. As the museum rotates its permanent collection regularly it may be worth phoning in advance to check out what is on display. Below are some highlights.

Modern & Contemporary Art

The Beck building houses most of the modern artworks, including works of Cubism by Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) and Fernand Leger (1881-1995), as well as non-objective art by Piet Mondrian (1872-1944), and sculptor Constantin Brancusi (1876-1957). The Law building continually rotates exhibitions from the museums permanent collection, with works by Abstract Expressionists Franz Kline (1910-62), Jackson Pollock (1912-56) and partner Lee Krasner (1908-84). Post World War II sculpture is represented by works from Alexander Calder (1898-1976) and Picasso as well as Assemblage art from husband and wife Jean Tinguely (1925-91) and Niki de Saint Phalle (1930-2002). Pop Art is represented by Andy Warhol (1928-87) and Claes Oldenburg (b. 1929) and Minimalism by Jo Baer (b.1929) and Donald Judd (1928-1994). Recent additions include paintings by Jasper Johns (b.1930) and Robert Rauschenberg (1925-2008).

European Paintings

Early religious art, as well as Renaissance art and Baroque painting is well represented in the museum's collection. Paintings by Italian Renaissance masters Fra Angelico (1395-1455) and Sebastiano del Piombo (1485-1547) are worth seeing, as well as Flemish Old Masters Hans Memling (1430-94) and Roger van der Weyden (1399-1464). 18th and 19th century artists include works by Francisco de Goya (1746-1828) and Theodore Rousseau (1812-67), and there are many Impressionist and Post-Impressionists on view.

American Sculpture and Painting

19th century American landscape painting, depicting the American wilderness (including movements like Hudson River School and Luminism) is a particular strength of the museum and includes works by Frederic Church (1826-1900) and Thomas Cole (1801-48). The society portraitist John Singer Sargent (1856-1925) is also represented, as well as early 20th century Ashcan School paintings and abstract artworks by Georgia O Keeffe (1887-1986) among others.

Asian Art

Ranging from Chinese art from 2400 BCE to contemporary Japanese art, the museum has a significant collection of Asian arts and crafts, featuring scroll paintings, sculptures of Buddhist and Hindu gods and rare Indian miniature paintings. In 2010 the museum opened the Ting Tsung and Wei Fong Chao Arts of China Gallery, specifically to showcase its growing collection.

African Art

The museum also has a large collection of African art, including ceremonial objects, furniture, and wood sculptures. The Glassell Collection of African Gold, donated by philanthropist Alfred Glassell contains over 800 artifacts, primarily from the Royal courts of the Akan people of Ghana and Ivory Coast. Most notable is a golden staff by the Akan people, a burial mask from Java and jewelry from the Moche people of Peru.

Brazilian Art

The Adolpho Leirner Collection of Brazilian Constructive Art consists of geometric abstract paintings, drawings, poster art, graphic deigns and constructions from Post World War II Brazil. Artists represented include Brazilian's Samson Flexor (1907-1971) and Cícero Dias (1907-2003) as well as works by avant-garde painters Nogueira Lima (Grupo ruptura) and Waldemar Cordeiro (1925-1973). Since 1927 MFAH has held over 30 exhibitions of Latin American art. In fact, in 2001 the museum became home to the International Center for the Arts of the Americas (ICAA).

Native American Art

The museum displays examples of American Indian art, including artifacts made by the Apache and Navajo. Works include watercolours, baskets, silver jewellery, textiles, ceramics and kachina dolls. There are also over 90 works from the school of Native American painters dating from the 1920s and 1930s.


Fine art photography is also well represented in the museum's collection with photos from renowned photographers such as Man Ray (1890-76) and Ansel Adams (1902-84); as well as nearly 4,000 photos acquired in 2002 from the well known collector Manfred Heiting.

Drawings and Prints

The permanent collection includes examples of early German engraving and woodcuts, including 35 by Albrecht Durer (1471-90) as well as prints by Jacques Bellange (1575-1616) and Dutch artist Rembrandt (1606-69). Drawings from the 17th century onwards by Masters such as Edgar Degas (1834-1917) and Odilon Redon (1840-1916) are also present. There are wood engravings by American cartoonist Thomas Nast (1840-1902) and painter Winslow Homer (1836-1910) and drawings by Jackson Pollock, Arshile Gorky (1904-48) and Franz Kline.

Painting Highlights

Our particular choices include these works:

- The Turning Road (1906) by Andre Derain (1880-1954).
- The Rocks (1888) by Vincent Van Gogh (1853-90).
- The Yellow Scale (c.1907) by Frantisek Kupka (1871-1957).
- Fishing Boats (1909) by Georges Braque (1882-1963).
- Virgin and Child (c.1440) by Rogier van der Weyden (1399-1464).
- Grey Lines with Black, Blue and Yellow (c.1921) by Georgia O'Keeffe.
- Self-Portrait (1986) by Andy Warhol, painted just months before his death.
- A Muse (1917) bronze sculpture by Constantin Brancusi (1876-1957).
- Still Life of Flowers and Fruit (c.1715) by Jan Van Huysum (1682-1749).

Contact Details

Museum of Fine Arts
Law Building
1001 Bissonnet Houston
Texas 77005

Beck Building
5601 Main Street

+1 713 639-7300


Opening Times

Tuesday & Wednesday: 10am to 5pm
Friday & Saturday: 10am to 7pm
Thursday: 10am to 9pm
Sunday: 12.15pm to 7pm
Monday: Closed except holiday Mondays


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