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Touching Ground: Finding the American South: 20x24 Polaroids by Jennifer Trausch

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The Snite Museum of Art provides opportunities to enjoy, respond to, learn from, and be inspired by original works of art. As an integral unit of the University of Notre Dame, the Museum supports teaching and research; furthers faith-based initiatives for greater internal diversity and service to the external community; and reflects the traditions and values of the University.As a traditional liberal arts university, the visual arts have a long history on the campus of the University of Notre Dame. In 1874 Rev. Edward Sorin, C.S.C., hired Vatican artist Luigi Gregori to teach art and decorate the interiors of the Main Building and the Basilica of the Sacred Heart.

The Bishops Collection and University Library, 4th Floor of the Main Building, ca. 1895

In 1875 the Bishops Gallery, featuring 60 portraits painted by Gregori, and a Museum of Indian Antiquities opened in the Main Building. The latter grew dramatically in 1899 by a large donation of Native American objects from Rev. Edward W.J. Lindesmith, a diocesan priest from Ohio. He collected them while serving at Fort Keogh, Montana, as the first Catholic chaplain ever commissioned in the US Army during peacetime.

Small donations of art were also contributed by priests and professors throughout the early history of the University.

In 1917 Rev. John Cavanaugh, C.S.C., then president of the University, acquired 136 paintings previously owned by the Braschi family of Rome.

Also in 1917 the construction of the University's new library, Bond Hall, was completed. The second floor contained four large galleries for displaying the University's art collection.


Wightman Memorial Art Gallery, 2nd floor of Bond Hall, ca. 1925

In 1924 Charles A. Wightman donated 108 paintings of religious subjects in memory of his late wife, Cecilia. Starting in 1924 the second floor spaces of Bond Hall were named in her honor the Wightman Memorial Art Gallery in the University Library.

Dom Gregory Gerrer, O.S.B., an American Benedictine monk who had studied art in Rome, was the first curator and art conservator. He was supervised by the director of the library, Paul R. Byrne. Gerrer published a catalog of the collection in 1925, which was expanded and republished in 1934.

In the 1934 edition of the collection catalog Maurice H. Goldblatt is listed as the director of the gallery, and Dom Gregory Gerrer, O.S.B., its curator.


In 1952, at the request of Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C., Ignatius A. O'Shaughnessy funded construction of O'Shaughnessy Hall, a new home for the College of Liberal Arts. It included the construction of the O'Shaughnessy Art Gallery, which opened in 1953 and remains today one of the primary special exhibition spaces of the Snite Museum of Art.

From 1953 to 1958 Paul R. Byrne (retired director of the library) served as curator of the galleries and collection, followed by James Key Reeve in 1958 and John Howett in 1961. Howett cataloged the collection, had it photographed, and was the primary force behind the 1966 Handbook of the Collection.

In 1955 Croatian sculptor Ivan Mestrovic moved from Syracuse University to Notre Dame at the invitation of Father Hesburgh and the Mestrovic Sculpture Studio was constructed for his use as instructor and artist-in-residence. In it he created numerous public artworks for the campus during the last seven years of his life.

In the early 1960s artist and faculty member, Rev. Anthony J. Lauck, C.S.C., was selected to serve as the director of the galleries. Through his New York and Chicago art connections the permanent collection continued to grow. Dean Porter, PhD, succeeded Howett as curator in 1966 and became director when Father Lauck retired in 1974.

One of Father Lauck's last projects was to shepherd the gallery into accreditation by the American Association of Museums. This goal was achieved in 1974. The Museum has successfully maintained this professional status by undergoing a rigorous external review every ten years.

Mrs. Frederick B. Snite, Mr. Frederick B. Snite, Father Hesburgh and Katherine Snite Williams (daughter of Frederick B. Snite, Jr.) at Dec. 3, 1976 groundbreaking ceremony for the Snite Museum.

In December 1976, some months after the sale of his Chicago area business, Local Loan, to Mellon National Bank, Frederick B. Snite, Sr., presented then-University President, Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C., a $2 million check from the Snite Foundation. This very generous gift provided the funding for a new art museum on campus, to be named The Snite Museum of Art, in memory of his son, Frederick B. Snite, Jr, who died in 1954.

Frederick B. Snite, Jr., contracted polio in China while on a round-the-world trip with his family just three years after this 1933 graduation from Notre Dame. The viral disease paralyzed his muscles, but he survived for another 18 years by using an "iron lung" (tank respirator), which required him to lie flat on his back inside the machine while it assisted his respiratory system to function.Thus he became known as, "The Boiler Kid."

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