Plans for a museum at the University of Texas at Austin began in 1927 when Archer M. Huntington made a donation of some land to fund an art museum. It took 11 years for a College of Fine Arts to be founded. In 1963 a small museum was opened, and noted author James Michener and his wife Mari donated a collection of 20th-century American art that substantially improved the collection. So much so, that they had to move to a larger building in 1972.
In April 2006 the new Blanton Museum of Art opened. Designed by Kallman, McKinnell, and Wood, the New Mari and James A. Michener Gallery houses the museum's permanent collection on the second floor. The building is constructed of Texas limestone, granite, and South American Epp wood with a Spanish tile roof. In 2008 a new building housing a cafe, store, and auditorium opened and made the Blanton the largest university art museum in the country.
The Jack S. Blanton Museum is also the home of the Suida-Manning Collection of European Art. This collection brought this museum to a whole new level. They now have the eighth largest collection of Italian old masters outside of Europe. Their collection of 17th-century French paintings is only surpassed by the Metropolitan Museum. The collection is comprised of 250 paintings, 400 drawings, and 20 sculptures.
It is made up of German, French, and Italian art from the 14th through 18th centuries. They went on display in 1999 and are an amazing collection. Many of the items are by lesser-known artists whose work is seldom seen outside of Italy, but one painting has been identified as being by Parmigianino and is only the third one in this country.
If you like Western American Art, and of course this is the West, the C.R. Smith Collection of Art of the American West offers an amazing glance at the west as it used to be with cowboys, wranglers and Indians.
As you get off the elevator you will fall in love with the beautiful museum. Some wonderful and unexpected English portraits are the first thing you see. The whole feeling is light and airy with high ceilings and amazing arches and angles.
Rooms of the fantastic European collection are followed by rooms of amazing prints. Mixed in there is a few antiquities. On to the modern works and one where you actually can walk into it. This museum is a winner and a must-see for anyone going to Austin. A gift shop is located in the new Edgar A. Smith Building which is a much-expanded version of the previous small one in the Michener Building.
Parking is available at the Brazos Garage and at several other lots in the area. The problem can be that this is a very busy area and they are often filled. Be persistent and don't take no for an answer and eventually you will find a spot and it is so worth it. The Blanton Museum of Art is a very important museum and one that you shouldn't miss if you are in Austin.