Dixon Gallery and Gardens, Memphis, United States

The Dixon Gallery and Gardens is an art museum within 17 acres of gardens, established in 1976, and located at 4339 Park Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee, United States. Founded in 1976 by Hugo and Margaret Dixon, the Dixon Gallery and Gardens is a fine art museum and public garden distinguished by its diverse and innovative programs in the arts and horticulture. The Dixon features a permanent collection of over 2,000 objects, including French and American Impressionist paintings and significant holdings of German and English porcelain.

The Dixon Gallery and Gardens stands for the plurality of the human experience. The Dixon museum enriched and inspired in our work and our relations by diverse peoples, ideas, cultures, and traditions. The Dixon museum committed to diversity in all areas of our work and organization.

The museum sits within four principal outdoor sculpture gardens with Greco-Roman sculpture. Its site was acquired by the Dixons in 1939, and landscaped in the English Garden style with open vistas adjacent to smaller, intimate formal spaces. The major areas within the gardens are the Cutting Garden, Formal Garden, South Lawn, and Woodland Gardens.

The museum focuses on French and American impressionism and features works by Monet, Degas, and Renoir, Pierre Bonnard, Mary Cassatt, Marc Chagall, Honoré Daumier, Henri Fantin-Latour, Paul Gauguin, Henri Matisse, Berthe Morisot, Edvard Munch, Auguste Rodin, and Alfred Sisley, as well as an extensive collection of works by French Impressionist artist Jean-Louis Forain. The museum also houses the Stout Collection of 18th-century German porcelain. With nearly 600 pieces of tableware and figures, it is one of the finest such collections in the United States.

The original collection of paintings, on view in the Dixon residence, is devoted to French and American Impressionists, Post-Impressionists, and related schools. The core of the collection was acquired with the guidance of the late John Rewald, a leading authority on French Impressionism. The collection also includes 18th- and 19th-century British portraits and landscapes in keeping with Hugo Dixon’s English heritage.

The museum organizes and presents eight to ten exhibitions every year, the diversity of which appeals to visitors of all ages. The Dixon’s seventeen acre campus is highly regarded public garden that includes formal spaces, woodland tracts, and cutting gardens. The Dixon is accredited by the American Association Museums and is a member of the American Public Gardens Association and Botanical Gardens Conservation International.

The Dixon also features a comprehensive schedule of original and traveling exhibitions of fine art and horticulture.

The history of Dixon Gallery and Gardens begins with two exceptional people, Margaret Oates Dixon (1900-1974) and Hugo Norton Dixon (1892-1974). Philanthropists and community leaders, the Dixons ensured a richer and more varied cultural life for Memphians by bequeathing their home, gardens, and collection of French Impressionist paintings for the enjoyment and education of future generations. The Dixons also established the Hugo Dixon Foundation, a separate entity that assists in funding the Dixon Gallery and Gardens in perpetuity.

The 17-acre wooded site was acquired by the Dixon’s in 1939 and construction of their home followed. Plans for the house and gardens began simultaneously as the house was sited for future garden vistas. At the time, Margaret and Hugo Dixon enlisted the aid of his sister, Hope Crutchfield, who was a landscape designer. Their goal was to create an American-style garden reminiscent of English landscape parks and French and Italian garden styles. In 1976, the cutting gardens were established to provide flowers for the arrangements in the residence and the galleries. Mrs. Dixon always had fresh flowers in her home and the Dixon Gallery and Gardens’ long partnership with The Memphis Garden Club has continued this tradition.

In 1998, a horticultural complex opened at the Dixon that includes a library, meeting space, potting hub, greenhouses, and a glass conservatory.

The Dixon was certified as a level 4 Arboretum in 2011, having 60 identified and labeled trees. Although a public institution, the Dixon receives no city, state or federal funding; it is supported by the Hugo Dixon Foundation, Dixon Gallery and Gardens Endowment Fund and by individual and corporate donors.

The Dixon residence was designed by the prominent Houston architect John Staub who is best known for the development of the River Oaks suburb in Houston and home of Bayou Bend, which now houses the decorative arts collection of the Museum of Fine Arts Houston. The Dixon residence was designed in the Neo-Georgian manner and completed in 1942. The house opened to the public in 1976, and today is devoted to displaying the Dixon permanent collection.

The Dixon’s permanent collection started as a gift of twenty-six paintings from our founders, Margaret and Hugo Dixon.

Through generous gifts, bequests, and museum purchases, the Dixon’s collection has grown to over 2,000 fine art and decorative arts objects. With the addition of the Warda Stevens Stout Collection of eighteenth-century German Porcelain, the Adler Pewter Collection, and many others, the Dixon’s permanent collection has expanded to include American art and a world-class collection of decorative art.

Late nineteenth and early twentieth century French Impressionist and Post-Impressionist landscapes, still life, portraits, and figure paintings form the core of the Dixon’s paintings collection. Works by Edgar Degas, Claude Monet, Berthe Morisot, Camille Pissarro, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec highlight the artistic innovations of the Impressionists.

Decades after the Impressionists first challenged the notion of what painting should be, works by Paul Cézanne, Henri Matisse, and Georges Seurat reveal how artists continued to deconstruct those traditional notions. In doing do, they indelibly changed the course of modern art.

The Dixon has augmented this area of the collection over the years with important gifts and acquisitions. From terracotta sculptures by Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux and Albert-Ernest Carrier-Belleuse to works in bronze by iconic masters like Auguste Rodin, the Dixon’s sculpture collection can be enjoyed both inside the galleries and throughout seventeen acres of the gardens. With the addition of Augusta Savage’s Gamin (ca. 1930) in 2013, Paul Gasq’s Blacksmith (ca. 1900) in 2014, and Jun Kaneko’s Untitled (2005-2007) in 2015, this section of the Dixon’s permanent collection continues to grow.

Works on Paper
The Dixon boasts a distinguished collection of prints and drawings by some of the great graphic artists of the 1800s and 1900s. These works reveal much about the society in which they were produced and provide visual commentary on fin-de-siècle social mores. Among the many masterworks in this area of the collection are Edgar Degas’ Dancer Adjusting Her Shoe (1885) and Woman Breathing in Flowers (1883) by Jean-Louis Forain, the “youngest and most incisive of the Impressionists.”

The Dixon is the major repository for Jean-Louis Forain’s work in the United States. Other graphic artists represented in the Dixon’s permanent collection include Honoré Daumier, Paul-César Helleu, Winslow Homer, and Maurice Prendergast.

The foundation of the Dixon’s decorative art holdings is the Warda Stevens Stout Collection of 18th-century German porcelain. Comprised of nearly 600 pieces, this collection includes a remarkable survey of Meissen tableware and figures dating from the early Bottger period through mid-century, a large group of Hochst figures, and selected figures and tableware from numerous porcelain factories. The magazine Art and Antiques named this large and encyclopedic collection one of the top 100 in the United States, for it includes some of the rarest and most unique objects produced by the Chelsea, Derby, Bow, and Worcester manufactories, as well as works from other factories in England.

In 2008, the Dixon Gallery and Gardens received an important group of 18th and 19th-century English porcelain from the Charlotte Stout Hooker Collection. For Mrs. Hooker, a longtime Dixon board member, collecting is not just a pastime, but a passion and a family tradition. Her mother, Warda Stevens Stout, assembled one of the world’s great collections of 18th-century German porcelain, which she bequeathed to the Dixon in 1985. Mrs. Stout passed her love of porcelain on to her daughter Charlotte, along with a small collection that would be the start of an extraordinary body of work in its own right. When combined with her mother’s earlier bequest, Mrs. Hooker’s remarkable contribution to the Dixon has made our porcelain holdings among the most significant in the world.

In addition, the Dixon has expanded its collection to include outstanding examples of French 18th and 19th-century porcelain and other decorative arts.

Four centuries of pewter from Europe and the United States are represented in the Adler Pewter Collection. In 1991, Dr. Justin Adler and his wife, Herta, generously donated their extensive collection of pewter to the Dixon. More than 300 utilitarian, decorative, and commemorative objects dating from the seventeenth century to the early twentieth century comprise the collection.

The extensive scope of the Adler Pewter Collection is a reminder of the important role pewter has played in daily life for hundreds of years, as the bulk of domestic pewter that survives dates from the sixteenth through eighteenth centuries. All of the most common domestic objects during this period—from dishes and tankards to measures and candlesticks—were constructed in pewter. Imported from Europe to America in colonial times, pewter enjoyed great popularity in the New World and became the primary utilitarian ware in the colonies.

Pewter forms often mimicked styles found in other media, such as porcelain and silver; however, due to its utilitarian use, pewter was generally only decorated for ecclesiastical use or to serve as a commemorative object. During the Art Nouveau period of the early twentieth century, pewter evolved into a medium for artistic expression with organic shapes and floral motifs that typified the art of that period.

In accordance with the Dixon’s interest, the museum has over the years acquired excellent works by the French Impressionists who showed at one of the eight group Impressionist exhibitions. Also a priority are the works by other top-flight artists of the period, both Impressionist and Realist, who have not yet received the recognition of Degas, Monet, or Pissarro. An example of this commitment is the Dixon’s recent acquisition of 56 works by the French artist Jean-Louis Forain, this making the Dixon a major international repository of the artist’s work.

In 1996, in conjunction with the museum’s 20th anniversary, the Dixon acquired 23 paintings and sculptures in a gift purchase agreement with the Montgomery H.W. Ritchie family of Palo Duro, Texas. The Ritchie Collection greatly enhances the museum’s holdings of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works.

In 2006, the Dixon Gallery and Gardens celebrated 30 years of excellence with a special exhibition highlighting its fantastic permanent collection. Today, the Dixon continues expanding its collection, while also advancing art education in both the Memphis community and the world.

The Dixon Education Department strives to reach diverse audiences and provide an environment that applauds personal interpretation and advances creative thought. The Education Department promotes interest in the arts and horticulture through specific programming for children, adults, and outreach groups.

Some of the Dixon’s programs include the childrens program Mini Masters, the adult lecture series Munch and Learn, and the school outreach program Art to Grow. The excellent educational programs at the Dixon are evidenced by the Associate Curator of Education, who was named Tennessee Art Educator of the Year for 2009-2010 by the Tennessee Art Educators Association.