Success breeds further success. This was a maxim clearly understood by Gertrude (Trudie) Terrell Munger (Mrs. Stephen I. Munger) when, in 1925, she created an endowment fund for acquisitions to benefit the permanent collection of the Dallas Art Association, the founding organization of the Dallas Museum of Art. Setting aside the then-considerable sum of $50,000 "as a nucleus for creating a fine arts gallery," with the income from the fund to be used to purchase works of art for the young institution's permanent collection, Trudie Munger absolutely transformed the Museum's potential.
For the first twenty-two years of its existence, the Dallas Art Association enjoyed broad and enthusiastic financial support from a number of sources. These included its membership dues, admission fees for special programs and exhibitions, various fundraising events, sponsorships solicited from civic and business enterprises, and special donations. Yet the idea of providing permanent funds for a collection had grown slowly.
Trudie Munger had ancestral roots in Texas going back to the days of the Republic. She attended Tawakoni College, where she met her future husband, Stephen. The Mungers traveled often to Europe and spent their summers in New York at Chautauqua, where they participated in adult education programs and attended concerts. In addition to the $50,000 endowment of an acquisition fund at the Museum, she gave $50,000 for a chair in the French Department at Southern Methodist University. She had a remarkable collection of American art and was also devoted to music. Trudie Munger was a widow when she established the Munger Fund, but she herself lived for another three decades, and during that time she played an active role in overseeing the acquisitions bought with its income.
The Munger Fund did more than simply provide funds for the purchase of works of art. It was most significant for the young institution by validating the earlier efforts of the members and supporters of the Dallas Art Association, encouraging further gifts, and heightening the overall prestige of the organization's program of activities. It ensured, in other words, the institution's early and continuing success. The fund has contributed handsomely not only to the level of quality in individual artworks but also to the encyclopedic nature of the permanent collection. The objects purchased over the years through the Munger Fund represent cultures from around the world and a range of historical periods and include several of the most notable works from a number of areas within the Museum.
The Museum's first truly world-class purchase, Claude Monet's The Seine at Lavacourt (1880, 1938.4.M), was made with the Munger Fund in 1938. This painting remains a centerpiece of the Museum's collections, as do two later modern European paintings bought with income from the fund, Camille Pissarro's Apple Harvest (1888, 1955.17.M) and Forest of Fontainebleau (1868, 1991.14.M) by Narcisse Virgile Diaz de la Pena. An important Old Master painting purchased by the Munger Fund in 1977 is Basket of Flowers (c. 1615, 1977.33.M) by Osias Beert the Elder, who was one of the first artists in the Netherlands to specialize in the then-new type of painting called still life. The Munger Fund also brought to the Museum one of its only piece of medieval sculpture, a sandstone Madonna and Child figure probably carved in the Burgundy region of France between 1400 and 1425 (1981.39.M).
Important American works purchased through the Munger Fund include the beautiful Sleepy Baby (c. 1910, 1952.38.M) by Mary Cassatt, the last of five pastel treatments of the subject of mother and child that the artist made late in her career. Also noteworthy is an outstanding watercolor by Cassatt's younger contemporary, Childe Hassam, Flags, Fifth Avenue (1918, 1975.85.M), and a late landscape by Thomas Moran, An Indian Paradise (Green River, Wyoming) (1911, 1950.50.M). John Ashley, Esq. and Mrs. John Ashley, a pair of portraits by Gilbert Stuart painted around 1798 (1946.36.M and 1946.37.M), portray a Philadelphia merchant and his wife. These were purchased by the Munger Fund in 1946.
American and European art, however, are not the sole focus of the fund, which has brought the Museum some of its finest examples of ancient and non-Western art. Primary among these is an Egyptian relief depicting a procession of people bearing offerings (1965.28.M); this carved and painted limestone panel dates from about 2300 B.C.E. Other outstanding ancient objects include a Greek black-figure amphora vase from the last quarter of the 6th century B.C.E., featuring scenes from the Trojan War (1965.29.M), and a superb pair of bronze Etruscan funerary shields. The non-Western collections have been enriched by the acquisition of the Longquan tiger vase with swan cover (1971.16.A-B.M), a strikingly beautiful Chinese Song dynasty celadon-glazed porcelain vase dating from the 12th century.
Carl Wuellner, “The Munger Fund,” in Dallas Museum of Art, 100 Years , ed. Dorothy M. Kosinski (Dallas, TX: Dallas Museum of Art, 2003), Pamphlet number 4.