When the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, first named the Brooks Memorial Art Gallery, opened its doors in 1916, the collection included just a handful of art works. Today the museum's holdings have grown to nearly 9,000 significant art objects across world cultures and millennia of history. Much of the art acquired during the museum’s first two decades were paintings by popular American artists of that period such as Cecilia Beaux, Edward Redfield, and William Merritt Chase. Through the years, with the addition of many notable gifts and purchases, the collection is now encyclopedic in scope.
The first important purchase was the acquisition of 38 Old Master paintings from Warner S. McCall of Saint Louis in 1943. A few years later, Dr. Louis Levy gifted the institution over 1,000 prints from his personal collection; these works form the foundation of the Brooks’ expansive holdings of works on paper. In 1960 the Samuel H. Kress Foundation gave the museum one of its most significant gifts to date, a group of superb Italian masterpieces. This was followed by Mr. and Mrs. Hugo Dixon’s gift of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings.
Other important gifts came from the collections of AutoZone corporation, Morrie A. Moss, and Mrs. Julie Isenberg. In addition, purchases by museum support groups such as Art Today, the Decorative Arts Trust, and the Brooks League have greatly expanded the scope of the museum’s holdings. The collection, which offers a broad survey of the history of art, now ranges from the works of ancient Pre-Columbian cultures to the forefront of the contemporary world.The Memphis Brooks Museum of Art’s permanent collection of paintings highlights Italian Renaissance and Baroque as well as British, French Impressionists, and 20th century artists.
Giovanni Antonio Canal, called Canaletto (Italian, 1697-1768), The Grand Canal from Campo San Vio, 1730-1735, Oil on canvas 44 3/8" x 63 3/8" (112.7 cm x 161 cm), Gift of the Samuel H. Kress Foundation 61.216