On this day in Alabama history: Birmingham Museum of Art opened

On this day in Alabama history: Birmingham Museum of Art opened
Exterior shot of the Birmingham Museum of Art, focusing on the original 1950s-era Oscar Wells Memorial Building, 2010. (Sean Pathasema, Birmingham Museum of Art, Wikipedia)

April 8, 1951

On April 8, 1951, the Birmingham Museum of Art opened with five galleries featuring 75 paintings borrowed from major museums across the U.S. It originally had no permanent collection other than a few inaugural gifts of paintings, textiles and glass. In 1952, the Samuel H. Kress Foundation loaned and later agreed to donate 27 Renaissance and Baroque paintings if they could be properly housed. In response, Helen Jacobs Wells, widow of banking executive Samuel Wells, stipulated in her will that upon her death (in December 1954), the bulk of her sizable estate would go to construct a building that would provide the proper display, temperature and humidity requirements for paintings and other works of art. Wells also bequeathed her print collection, which included masterworks by Rembrandt, Albrecht Dürer and James McNeill Whistler, to the facility. Named for her husband, who also was an avid supporter of the arts, the Oscar Wells Memorial Museum building opened in May 1959.

Read more at Encyclopedia of Alabama.

For more on Alabama’s Bicentennial, visit Alabama 200.

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