Edward Hopper’s 1927 painting, “The City,” was among the many gifts made by C. Leonard Pfeiffer to make the University of Arizona Museum of Art a reality. Photo courtesy of UAMA
Edward Hopper’s 1927 painting, “The City,” was among the many gifts made by C. Leonard Pfeiffer to make the University of Arizona Museum of Art a reality.
Photo courtesy of UAMA

Fostering an awareness of fine art wasn’t a priority in the University of Arizona’s formative years.  But in 1924 that began to change when Katherine Kitt, founder of what is now known as the School of Art, mounted the university’s first exhibition.

Ninety years and many art shows later, the University of Arizona Museum of Art is celebrating that landmark with “An Unfolding Legacy,” a series of exhibits featuring selections from notable collections. Some of it has never been shown before, which isn’t surprising:  With some 6,000 works of art in the museum vaults, only about 3 percent of the holdings can be displayed at one time.

Johanna Stein, a docent for the UAMA for more than a decade, will be at Academy Village to present a lecture, “The Art of Collecting,” on Wednesday (March 5) at 3:30 p.m.  She will talk about the museum’s early years and its first major donor, C. Leonard Pfeiffer, who sold his stamp collection in order to buy American art.

During the Great Depression, the fledgling art gallery, which had carved out space in the campus library, began to grow when it acquired several hundred paintings, prints, and sculptures by W. P. A. artists.

The 1940s brought the vision and generosity of C. Leonard Pfeiffer.  A UA alumnus, Pfeiffer believed that every student at his alma mater should have the chance to see fine art.  An astute collector, he sought American art from the 1920s through the 1940s, a period in which a unique American style emerged and produced artists such as Edward Hopper, Walt Kuhn, and Isabel Bishop.  In 1944, he promised more than 100 paintings to the university with the proviso that it build a stand-alone museum.  In 1955, ground was broken for the UAMA.

“American  Visions:  Selections from the C. Leonard Pfeiffer Collection” will beon display at the UAMA until March 23.

Submitted by Caroline Bates, Academy Village Volunteer

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Museum of Art Marks 90 Years of Collecting : March 2014