USC Fisher Museum of Art, formerly USC Fisher Gallery, which is affiliated with the University of Southern California, is the first art museum established in the city of Los Angeles. USC Fisher Museum of Art opened as an art museum and remains solely dedicated to the exhibition and collection of fine art.
USC Fisher Museum of Art accredited by the American Association of Museums, the museum houses a permanent collection of some 1,800 objects including 19th century American landscapes; 16th and 17th century Northern European paintings; 18th century British portraiture; and 19th century French Barbizon paintings, as well as 20th century works on paper, paintings and sculpture and features exhibitions of local, international, and emerging artists.
Founded in 1939 by Elizabeth Holmes Fisher, she donated 29 paintings at the beginning. When she died in 1955, the collection had grown to 74 paintings, drawings and sculptures by European and North American artists. In 1955, Armand Hammer donated to the museum a collection of 48 works by Dutch, Flemish, German, and Italian masters of the fifteenth through seventeenth centuries. In recent years, the 20th and 21st centuries collections are growing fast, not only in size, but in scope. The later collections span the medias of painting, prints, drawings, photography, and sculpture.
The USC Fisher Museum of Art maintains a permanent collection of artwork ranging from old-master paintings to contemporary works and works on paper. The artwork in the collections date from 1500 to the present day and are comprised of objects by artists from Europe and North and South America working principally in painting, printmaking, drawing, and photography. The collections also contain a number of sculptures and decorative art objects. Of note are the collections of 19th and early 20th century American landscapes, 16th through 19th century Western European paintings, 17th through 19th century British portraits, 19th century French Barbizon landscapes, and 20th and 21st century works. The growing contemporary collection features works by artists from California, Latin America, and Spain. It is also designed to include works of art with global and intellectual significance for our university community and the enrichment of our various communities.
Highlights of the collections include: Venus Wounded by a Thorn (ca. 1608-1610) by Peter Paul Rubens, St. John the Evangelist (1618-1620) by Anthony van Dyck (attributed to), Isabella Hunter formerly Mrs. Anne Downman (ca. 1776-1790) by Angelica Kauffmann, Emma, Lady Hamilton by George Romney, Mrs. Burroughs (1769) by Thomas Gainsborough, Femme Etandant Son Linge by Jean-François Millet, Richard Nixon (1972) by Andy Warhol, and Blacklist (1999) by Jenny Holzer.
Elizabeth Holmes Fisher Collection:
In 1937, the University of Southern California accepted a gift from Elizabeth Holmes Fisher to construct what is now known as the USC Fisher Museum of Art, dedicated on November 14, 1939. In addition to founding the museum, Mrs. Fisher gave to the University a significant portion of her art collection. Between 1939 and 1951, Mrs. Fisher donated a total of 74 paintings, drawings, and sculptures by European and American artists. The Elizabeth Holmes Fisher Collection is comprised of 19th century American Hudson River School and French Barbizon landscapes; 17th and 18th century British portraits; and Dutch and Flemish masterworks from the 16th through 18th centuries.
Fisher began collecting American paintings for the museum in the early 1940s, focusing on the first American painting tradition, the Hudson River School. These works celebrate the beauty of the American landscape, the pioneering spirit of the young nation, and the development of a burgeoning civilization. The collection of nine paintings spans five decades of American landscape painting and includes one singular example of work by each artist: Albert Bierstadt, Thomas Cole, Thomas Doughy, Asher B. Durand, Alvan Fisher, William Hart, Henry Inman, George Inness, and David Johnson. Also included in the collection is a watercolor by Winslow Homer.
Vose Galleries of Boston, the first American importer of Barbizon paintings, held its first of ten annual sales in Los Angeles in 1928, making 19th century French landscapes available for California collectors. Fisher purchased several works from this sale and by 1939 had assembled a tidy collection (including one pastel) representing the French Barbizon School of landscape painting. The members of the Barbizon School saw Romantic idealization of the countryside as a form of escapism from urban banality. Each artist worked while visiting the village of Barbizon, in the area around the Forest of Fontainebleau. They are considered to be the pioneers of plein air, or open air, landscape painting. Some, like Jean Francois Millet and Gustave Courbet, idealized the peasant or the labors of agriculture while Theodore (Pierre Etienne) Rousseau specialized in wooded scenes. The paintings of the Barbizon school, while reflecting the individual style and interests of the artist, demonstrate a commitment to recording the changing effects of light and atmosphere in a naturalist landscape. Also represented in the collection are Jean Charles Cazin, Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, Charles-Francois Daubigny, Narcisse Virgile Diaz de la Pena, Jules Dupre, Charles Emil Jacque, and Constant Troyon.
Elizabeth Fisher clearly had a love of British portraits as her collection contains over twenty of them dating from the 17th and 18th centuries. This period was an age of social flux, when new families came to power and others slipped into decline, portraits and landscape paintings became the requisite icons to establish the continuity of kinship and land ownership so important for social acceptance and political advancement. Artists represented in the collection include Thomas Gainsborough, George Henry Harlow, Angelica Kauffman, Sir Peter Lely, George Moreland, Sir Henry R.A. Raeburn, Allan Ramsay, Sir Joshua Reynolds, George Romney, John Russell, Benjamin West, and Johan Zoffany.
Close to one third of the entire Fisher Collection is devoted to 16th & 17th century European masters, namely Dutch, Flemish, German and French. The collection contains representative forerunners from the “golden age” in each of four areas of painting: portraiture, landscape, history, and genre. Artists represented in the collection include Jan de Bray, Jan Breughel, Pieter Codde, Jan van Dalem, Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, Jan van Goyen, Dirk Hals, Bartholomeus van der Helst, Salomon de Koninck, Claude Lorraine, Aert van der Neer, Gaspar Netscher, Jacob van Ruysdael, Adriaen van de Velde, and David Vinckboons.
Armand Hammer Collection:
Armand Hammer began collecting art in the 1920s with the purpose of decorating his Moscow home. At first, he collected with his brother, Victor Hammer. Following their return to the US, the brothers established the Hammer Galleries in New York City. Always the businessman, Hammer added to his inventory by collecting individual objects and through the acquisition of large collections (such as the entire collection of Charles Russell).
In 1958, Hammer showed his collection at the Municipal Art Gallery in Los Angeles, and at several other institutions around the country. He announced his intention to donate it to a public institution and ultimately bestowed the collection on the University of Southern California. Hammer donated to USC Fisher Museum of Art, personally and through the Armand Hammer Foundation (founded 1968) a collection of 48 works by Dutch, Flemish, German, and Italian masters of the fifteenth through seventeenth centuries. Of note, the collection includes works by Gerard Dou, Peter Paul Rubens, Willem Buytewech, Anthony van Dyck, the Brueghels, the Ruisdaels, Henri met de Bles, and Pieter de Hooch.
20th and 21st Centuries Collections:
The greatest area of growth in the USC Fisher Museum of Art in recent years is in the 20th and 21st centuries collections. This has been achieved through the generosity of donors and through purchases made by the museum. USC Fisher Museum of Art’s later collections span the medias of painting, prints, drawings, photography, and sculpture. The contemporary collections feature works principally by artists from California but also include an emphasis on international art, especially that of Mexico and Spain. Some of the artists include: Andy Warhol, Hanson Puthuff, Charles Smith, Gronk, Patssi Valdez, Jan Stursa, Sylvia Shap, Einar and Jamex de la Torre, Maynard Dixon, Salomon Huerta, Marta Palau, Carmen Calvo, Albert Contreras, Reverend Ethan Acres, Wallace Berman, and Fandra Chang.
USC Fisher Museum of Art follows the USC calendar and is closed on university holidays and during summer months. Selections of artworks culled from the permanent collection are not on permanent display. Each year the museum strives to have at least one of its professionally curated exhibitions come from its own collections. Items are occasionally loaned to regional, national and international institutions for exhibition purposes.