DMA Insight

Gustave Schindler, Collector's Statement

The following statement from collector Gustave Schindler is an excerpt from the 1975 publication +.

My first meaningful encounter with African art occurred in the late 1940s when, on a trip to Germany, Franyo and I saw exhibits which showed German Expressionist paintings together with art from Africa.

The viewing of African masks and sculptures in relationship to the Expressionist paintings was a revelation which had a profound impact on me. Franyo, through her works as a painter, had all along been interested in African carvings and fascinated by the mysticism connected with them.

Both of us were very much attracted by the dignity and directness of expression which the people had succeeded in bringing to the implements which they used in ceremony, in war, in daily living. Many of the objects communicated a power of their own, one which I have rarely sensed in the perhaps more "sophisticated" Western art forms. To me this force, this power expressed the ability of the tribe to overcome the helplessness which all men feel when they face the mysteries of the unknown.

Twenty-five years ago the general interest in African art was still rather limited in America. Few museums showed African material and there were practically no dealers. We spent much time at the British Museum, the Musée de l'Homme in Paris, and in Belgium at the Tervuren Museum. The more we revisited out favorite pieces in these museums, the more they "spoke" to us. Slowly we began to acquire pieces, never more than one at a time. We were not influenced by "rarity" of an object or by a desire to have every tribe represented. What we looked for instead was a certain simplicity and purity of conception, and the presence in a piece of the dignity and the almost religious force which makes one feel that it had actually served in the ceremonial rites for which it was created.

The group of sculptures and masks which, through the McDermott Foundation's generosity as well as through the great interest of the museum's administration and staff, have found such a beautiful home at the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, represent a very important part of our primitive art. Most of them were acquired before 1965 and were exhibited at museum shows. We will miss them, but we are most grateful that in this way our aim to have them kept together and permanently accessible to interested viewers has been accomplished.

Excerpt from

Gustave Schindler, "Collector's Statement," in John Lunsford, The Gustave and Franyo Schindler Collection of African Sculpture: Gift of the McDermott Foundation in Honor of Eugene McDermott (Dallas, TX: Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, 1975), 7.