Native Texan Kay Kimbell always hoped his state would one day establish its own art institute, so, in his will, he mandated the creation of such a place. After his death in 1964, his widow, Velma, put the Kimbells’ entire estate behind the project and, nearly a decade later, the Kimbell Art Museum opened in 1972.
The building was designed by Pritzker Prize laureate Louis Kahn, whose use of skylights made from “cycloid-shaped barrel vaults” made the museum a masterpiece in itself. Natural light plays a huge role in viewing art at the Kimbell, as sunbeams touch the works and appear to make them glow. Not that they need enhancement—among the artists represented here are Rembrandt, Degas, Matisse, Monet, Cézanne, and Picasso. Michelangelo’s first known painting, The Torment of St. Anthony, is also part of the museum’s collection.
Special exhibits have brought some of the world’s most unique art to Fort Worth, including Impressionist masterpieces from Van Gogh and Toulouse-Lautrec and artifacts from the reign of Hatsheput, Egypt’s female pharaoh in the 15th century BC. However, unlike the permanent collection, access to these exhibits comes with an admission fee. If you want to get the most for your money, plan to visit the museum when it offers a free tour of special exhibits (Tuesday through Thursday at 3 pm and Friday at 6 and 6:30 pm).
But the art itself is only part of what the Kimbell has to offer. Throughout the year the museum also hosts lectures, workshops, films, festivals, camps, and a book club.