Barrett Collection Gift Expands Canvas for University Art

Editors’ Note: This feature appears as it was published in the summer 2019 edition of UT Dallas Magazine. Titles or faculty members listed may have changed since that time.
Ulysses on the Island of Circe 
Recognized for its excellence in science, engineering and business, UT Dallas has recently placed greater emphasis on the arts. With the creation of the Edith O’Donnell Institute of Art History in 2014, the University has fostered innovative research and graduate education in the history of art.
The gift of the Barrett Collection, which will be housed in a new Barrett Museum to be built on campus, will extend the vision for the O’Donnell Institute, attracting new scholars and expanding the role of the arts across the University.
The gift made last fall to UT Dallas of the Barrett Collection, consisting of over 400 works of Swiss art, is the single-largest donation ever made to the University, as well as the largest gift of art to any school in the UT System.
The collection of paintings, sculpture, drawings and prints is the only definitive collection of Swiss art outside of Switzerland and is considered the largest and finest private collection of Swiss art ever formed. With works dating from the late 14th through the mid-20th century, the Barrett Collection includes important pieces by every major artist born in Switzerland.
“The arts are an essential facet of any great university,” said Dr. Richard C. Benson, president of UT Dallas and the Eugene McDermott Distinguished University Chair of Leadership. “I am grateful to the Barretts for this generous gift, which will catalyze the development of arts programs and provide our students with direct access to an extraordinary collection.”
Women in the Garden
The collection was started in the 1990s by Dallas residents Nona and Richard Barrett. Since Nona’s death in 2014, Richard and his present wife, Luba, have continued to expand the collection.
The core of the collection is composed of 11 works by Caspar Wolf, 12 by Angelika Kauffmann, seven by Heinrich Füssli, six by Arnold Böcklin, 50 by the 19th-century Swiss landscape masters, 38 by Ferdinand Hodler, 34 by Felix Vallotton and 41 by Cuno Amiet.
Dr. Richard Brettell, a scholar of modern painting and founding director of the O’Donnell Institute, has known the collection since its inception.
“Bringing this collection to a major research university makes the significance of the gift even greater,” said Brettell, who is the Margaret M. McDermott Distinguished Chair of Art and Aesthetic Studies, and the Edith O’Donnell Distinguished University Chair. “The focus and range of the Barrett Collection will spark many new dissertations, articles and books written by our graduate students and faculty.”