The New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA) was established in 1911 as the Delgado Museum of Art with funding from Jamaican-born businessman and sugar broker, Isaac Delgado. In accordance with Delgado’s wishes, his donation was used to create a ‘temple of art for rich and poor alike’. The resulting structure was designed by Chicago architect Samuel Marx and reflects neo-classical architecture.
Over the years NOMA has amassed a collection of reputable artwork for generations to enjoy, resulting in a permanent collection of close to 40,000 pieces. In the 1970s, at a time when the state and city were growing and expanding, the museum expanded it’s own facilities to include the City Wing, Stern Auditorium and the Wisner Education Wing. In more recent years, the museum renovated and expanded again, allowing for the creation of additional exhibition space, including the Lupin Foundation Center for Decorative Arts and galleries designed for traveling exhibitions. The facility also includes the Museum Shop and Ralph Brennan’s Café NOMA.
“Among NOMA’s treasures is a group of works by the French Impressionist Edgar Degas who visited maternal relatives in New Orleans in the 1870s and painted just 20 blocks from NOMA. NOMA’s collection of works by masters of the School of Paris includes paintings and sculptures by Picasso, Braque, Dufy and Miro, among others…”
Though the museum’s collection originated with works once owned by Virginia McRae Delgado, Isaac Delgado’s aunt, it was in 1965 that the Delgado Museum would acquire one painting that would serve as the centerpiece for the museum’s collection of works by French Impressionist Edgar Degas. The painting, ‘Portrait of Estelle Musson Degas’, was created in 1872 during the artist’s visit with family in New Orleans. The painting is of his cousin and sister-in-law Estelle who lived for a time with her husband and family in the Musson House, now the Degas House Courtyard and Inn on Esplanade Avenue, less than a mile from the present day museum.
Initiating the ‘Bring Estelle Home’ campaign, the museum was able to purchase ‘Portrait of Estelle Musson Degas’ and return her to New Orleans. This painting is the only work from Degas’ ‘New Orleans Collection’ to find a permanent home in the Crescent City.
NOMA’s collection also includes American, African and Japanese works, as well as, glasswork and photography. Adjacent to the museum and located in City Park is The Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden featuring a natural landscape which forms the backdrop for 63 sculptures created by international artists.