Published: January 9, 2001
The Dallas Museum of Art Receives Estate’s Art Deco Assemblage
DALLAS, TEX. – The Dallas Museum of Art has been given a collection of Art Deco sculpture, paintings, furniture, and decorations from the estate of Patsy Lacy Griffith. The bequest also includes three paintings by Georgia O’Keeffe. Griffith, a longtime collector and former antiques dealer, died on Christmas Day at 78.
“Her executor confirmed yesterday that Mrs Griffith left her entire collection to the museum,” Charles Venable, deputy director and chief curator of the Dallas Museum of Art, said last week. “The collection is housed in a rather spectacular Dallas apartment.”
The several hundred piece inventory includes “Yellow Cactus Blossoms,” a large painting by Georgia O’Keeffe that was previously a partial gift to the museum. “Yellow Cactus Blossoms” was shown in a recent exhibition jointly organized by the Phillips Collection and the Dallas Museum of Art. That show traveled to Washington, Dallas, Santa Fe, and San Francisco.
The Griffith bequest includes two other O’Keeffes, “Gladioli” and “Spring Tree,” neither of which has been on view at the DMA. “We have two other major O’Keeffes,” Venable noted. “Given that there are others here in Dallas, the museum has the potential to have a serious collection.”
“Patsy literally bought from Los Angeles to Leon, and she frequently shopped in London,” said the curator. For many years guided by John Bihler and Henry Coger, antiques dealers formerly from Sheffield, Mass., Griffith was an avid collector of American, English, and Continental art and antiques who bought widely from specialists around the country, from the Winter Antiques Show in New York to the Theta Charity Antiques Show in Houston. When she founded the William Griffith Antiques Shop in Dallas, she again relied on Bihler and Coger, who resettled in Texas.
“Her love of objects was genuine and enduring,” said Stonington, Conn., dealer Marguerite Riordan, who sold Griffith many choice English ceramic figures, American needlework, and hooked rugs. One of her first interests was Chinese Export porcelain, which she bought from Fred Nadler.
“She was an eclectic person with a quick eye,” said Nadler, who deals by appointment from his home in Morris Plains, N.J. “Quite a few years ago, she did the Philadelphia HUP Antiques Show. Her interests were varied and she bought the very best. A few years back she sold it all and started over with Art Deco.”
Baltimore dealer Milly McGehee, who between 1979 and 1988 operated her own shop in Dallas, said of Griffith, “She had lots of energy and great taste. Moreover, she was a caring friend and a supporter of the decorative arts. When I was asked to form a decorative arts committee at the Dallas Museum of Art in the mid-1980s, Patsy was one of several people who I immediately asked to be on the committee. She, of course, accepted. It was through her help, along with that of the other committee members, that we were able to purchase the Bybee Collection for the museum.” Emphasizing early American furniture, the Bybee collection helped establish the Dallas Museum’s reputation in the field of decorative arts.
In the late 1980s, Griffith began collecting French, American, and Italian Art Deco furniture, sculpture, and works of art with which to furnish her sumptuous new apartment. Housed in a high rise, with a dramatic view of the city’s skyline, the urbane dwelling featured metalwork by Oscar Bach, an important American exponent of the Art Deco taste in metal, “our version of Edgar Brandt,” says Venable.
Griffith also acquired pieces by Jules Leleu, some of which were created for Normandy, an ocean liner; Paul Frankl; Adnet; and Etienne Martine. Her most significant drawings included a group illustrating the dancer Isadora Duncan. Rounding out the ensemble was glass by Sabino, Lalique, and the contemporary Seattle artist Dale Chihuly.
“We are extremely pleased to receive her gift,” Venable said. “What is interesting is that we have been building a very significant collection of Twentieth Century industrial design. One of its richest components is the American section. We recently bought portions of the Chafritz estate, one of the most intact Art Deco houses in Washington, DC, with interior work by Eugene Schoen. Ceramics and Glass in America: 1880-1980 catalogues our very significant holdings of tableware. What we were missing was the French influence. This gives the Dallas Museum of Art one of the best holdings ofArt Deco in the country.”
Born June 11, 1922, in Longview, Tex., Griffith was the daughter of Rogers and Lawson Keener Lacy. Her father was a wildcatter who helped discover the Carthage Field in Panola County, and the Hawkins Field in Wood County, Tex., among other important drilling sites. After her father’s death, Mrs Griffith helped manage the family oil company, R. Lacy Inc.
Educated in Longview and Dallas, Griffith received a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Southern Methodist University. She married John William Griffith and together they operated ranches in East Texas and Colorado. In Gregg County, Texas, they owned the Five G Shetland Pony Farm and were noted for raising an unusual breed of livestock called the Belted Galloway. The Griffiths owned the Blanca Trichera Ranch, a large retreat in Colorado which they decorated with their extensive collections.
Griffith’s other interests included ballroom dancing, in which she competed for about a decade, beginning in 1982. In 1996, she received the United States Dance Foundation Amateur Life Achievement Award, one of only three given in the history of the foundation.
Griffith belonged to several clubs and associations, among them the Daughters of the American Revolution, the United Daughters of the Confederacy, and the Colonial Dames of America. She was predeceased by her husband and her son, William Gary Griffith. She is survived by her twin daughters, Gail Griffith Harrison of Kalaheo, Hawaii, and Gwen Griffith Valletta of Zephyr Cove, Nev.; a sister, Ann Lacy Crain of Longview, Tex.; three granddaughters; and several nieces and nephews. Services were on December 30.
“What is interesting about Mrs Griffith is that she was very sophisticated and traveled all over the world, yet she was always very fond of the place where she grew up,” Venable observed. “She had planned to build a house in east Texas.”
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