Gifts from the Past: The Isabel Brown Wilson Collection July 13–October 27, 2013

Houston native Isabel Brown Wilson had a passion for art. A noted philanthropist and art collector, she became an MFAH Trustee in 1979 and served as the Museum’s Chairman of the Board from 2001 to 2007. Wilson (1931–2012) gave generously of her time, energy, and resources, culminating with the bequest to the MFAH of her precious collection of antiquities.

Many of Wilson's glorious gifts are assembled in this exhibition that explores her love of ancient art. Spanning more than 4,000 years—the 4th millennium BC to 3rd century AD—her collection is of supreme quality. Gifts from the Past presents 50 artworks from her bequest. Small, jewel-like objects in wall cases are displayed along with large masterpieces on freestanding pedestals.

The daughter of prominent Houstonians George R. and Alice Pratt Brown, Wilson strengthened the family tradition of collecting and giving. “Majoring in the history of art is one of the cleverest things I ever did,” she said. “One of the first things I do in any city is go to the museum."

For Wilson, the excitement of collecting was not only the joy of possessing a beautiful object, but also the fascination of discovering the links between that object and its place in history. She believed that ancient art affirmed man’s innate need to have beauty in life, to rise above function and become something more. In a world of change and uncertainty, ancient art was a beacon of hope. Gifts from the Past is installed in the Alice Pratt Brown Gallery.

In-Gallery Extra: Guide by Cell
Learn more about these important works of art directly from the experts. Use your cell phone as you tour the exhibition, and look for the “Guide by Cell” logos in the gallery. Enter each guide number to hear additional information recorded by Gary Tinterow, MFAH director; Frances Marzio, MFAH curator; and Chelsea Dacus, MFAH assistant curator. Guide by Cell is free; the only cost is the minutes used on your phone.

This exhibition is organized by the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.


Caroline Wiess Law Building
1001 Bissonnet Street
Houston, TX 77005
Map & Directions