Statement on the Death of Nancy Hamon, Civic Leader and Passionate Benefactor of the Arts
One of Dallas’s most dedicated and prominent philanthropists, Nancy Blackburn Hamon was a spirited civic leader and a passionate benefactor of the arts, education, and medicine. Mrs. Hamon was a gracious and beloved member of the Dallas community and generously contributed more than $100 million over the course of her life to its cultural and educational institutions, with additional significant gifts that ranged from the donation of the first gorilla pair to the Dallas Zoo to the gift of a remarkable J.M.W. Turner painting for the Dallas Museum of Art. Her unwavering support of the Dallas Museum of Art dates to 1955, when she first joined the institution’s board of trustees. Throughout her long and inspired relationship with the DMA, she gave tremendously through volunteer leadership and financial support, totaling more than $34 million for exhibitions, educational programming, and capital enhancements at the Museum. Mrs. Hamon’s remarkable contributions also provided funding for building of the Museum’s Nancy and Jake L. Hamon Building, a 140,000-square-foot wing for the DMA’s collections and special exhibition programming that has become integral to the Museum experience.
Mrs. Hamon’s tenure on the Museum’s board of directors is marked by important institutional milestones, including the merger with the Dallas Museum for Contemporary Arts in the 1960s and the move to the downtown Dallas Arts District in the 1980s. In the 1970s, Mrs. Hamon and her husband Jake L. Hamon were instrumental in the joint acquisition of the Nora and John Wise Collection, one of the foremost private holdings of its kind, which encompasses some 2,700 ancient American works of art, including gold, silver, ceramics, textiles, wood, and stone from the Central Andes of South America. The Wise Collection marked a vital step in the expansion of the Museum’s collections and its transformation into an encyclopedic institution of global stature.
Mrs. Hamon also made numerous gifts of art to the Museum both from her personal collection and her foundation, including: J.M.W. Turner’s magnificent painting Bonneville, Savoy (1803) presented in memory of her husband and featured in the DMA’s acclaimed 2008 exhibition J.M.W. Turner, and Our Daily Bread, Rene Magritte’s 1942 oil on canvas given in honor of her friend and fellow Museum patron Margaret McDermott. In turn, Mrs. McDermott has made a promised gift of a masterwork from her collection in honor of Mrs. Hamon, Monet’s famed Water Lilies - The Clouds (1903)—considered one of the most important Impressionist paintings in private hands in Texas. In addition, Mr. and Mrs. Hamon provided funding for the Museum’s acquisition of more than 150 contemporary prints.
In 1988, shortly after the Museum relocated to its new building in downtown Dallas, Mrs. Hamon gave $20 million for the construction of a new wing for special exhibitions and expanded collections galleries. Designed by architect Edward Larrabee Barnes to complement his original design for the Museum’s 1984 building, the Nancy and Jake L. Hamon Building opened in 1993. The wing is home to the Museum’s ancient American, American and decorative art galleries; special exhibitions galleries; a public research library; and the Museum Store. The setting for much of the Museum’s public programs, including Jazz in the Atrium and Late Nights, the Hamon Building has become the heart of the visitor experience at the DMA.
Mrs. Hamon’s passion for the arts was developed early in life, primarily through the study of painting and ballet. She worked as a professional dancer in California, before meeting and marrying her husband Jake L. Hamon in 1949. A legendary Dallas wildcatter, prominent civic leader, and founder of the gas and oil company Hamon Operating Company, Mr. Hamon passed away in 1985. His notable associations included the Dallas Museum of Art, the Dallas Zoological Society, and the Dallas Cotton Bowl Athletic Association. The couple had one son, Jake “Jay” Hamon, who died in 1984. The Hamon Building at the Dallas Museum of Art was Mrs. Hamon’s first significant individual act of philanthropy after the death of both her husband and son.
The Dallas Museum of Art is one of several important community institutions that have benefited from Mrs. Hamon’s active philanthropy in Dallas. Her most significant contributions in the Dallas community include: a gift to the Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House for a rehearsal, education and recital space; a gift to Booker T. Washington School for the Performing and Visual Arts; a gift for the founding of the SMU Hamon Arts Library, a research facility; UT Southwestern for biomedical research; significant contributions to the Jake Hamon Gorilla Conservation Research Center at the Dallas Zoo, where the Hamons donated the first gorilla pair in 1957; and support for the Hamon Tower at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas, named in her recognition.
Mrs. Hamon also was a strong source of support for both public and private institutions in San Francisco, where she divided her time, among them among them The Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco, The San Francisco Public Library, Grace Cathedral, and California Pacific Medical Center.
Mrs. Hamon was not only known for her incredible philanthropy, but her sense of style, grace, wit, enjoyment of life, and impeccable taste, which is reflected in her far-ranging and generous endeavors. The Dallas Museum of Art will remember Mrs. Hamon in a private ceremony.
Stated Olivier Meslay, Interim Director of the Dallas Museum of Art:
“Nancy was an extraordinary benefactor of our city’s most important cultural and educational institutions, and she was a beloved member of our Dallas Museum of Art family for more than 50 years. Her support touched all aspects of the Museum and helped the DMA grow into the institution of international prominence that it is today. Her legacy lives on in particular through the DMA’s Hamon Building, which contributes greatly to the life and personality of our Museum and the City. She will be long-remembered for her love of art, gracious hospitality, civic spirit and tremendous philanthropy.”
Stated Deedie Potter Rose, Chair of the Dallas Museum of Art Board of Trustees:
“Nancy was a spirited civic leader whose incomparable benefaction will be admired for generations to come. Her deeply held belief in the value of the arts is her remarkable legacy, for it led her to a lifetime of enthusiastic support of visual and performing artists and for the work they created to enhance the lives of others.”
Stated John Eagle, President of the Dallas Museum of Art Board of Trustees:
"Nancy Hamon has been a model philanthropist -- volunteering her time for the museum, supporting programs and exhibitions, enhancing the facilities and donating works to the collection, leaving a legacy that has transformed the museum and the role it plays in the lives of people in Dallas and beyond."
Stated Harry S. Parker III, the Museum’s director from 1974 to 1987 and now a Director Emeritus:
“Nancy Hamon's generosity to the Museum was unflagging and always accompanied by her trademark wit and good humor. She believed in the endurance of art and sometimes unexpectedly supported friends and institutions through amazing acts of kindness and love."