Barbara D. Duncan

Correspondence Between Barbara Duncan and Donald B. Goodall

Duncan, Barbara Doyle. Correspondence between Duncan and Donald B. Goodall, 1971. Box 7, Folder Correspondence, Barbara Doyle Duncan Collection, Benson Latin American Collection, University of Texas at Austin. 

Barbara Duncan was a well-known art curator and historian who was instrumental in creating a collection of Latin American art at the University of Texas through the donation of her private collection for public consumption. In the pictured correspondence, Donald Goodall, head of the fine arts department at the University of Texas in 1971, the time of the correspondence, writes in the interest of Duncan’s Latin American art collection. Revealing interest of the University, represented by Donald Goodall, in Duncan’s collection is particularly noteworthy as it is revealed to be a major supplement to the inception of the study of art in Latin America at the University of Texas. Goodall is very upfront in mentioning the “long-range use” of her collection, should she decide to move forward with the transaction, stating that their “intention is to make continuing use of your pictures identified as The Barbara Duncan Collection within the Art of the Americas collections at The University of Texas where your pictures will form an essential component in the development of an ongoing program.” He goes on to detail the “ongoing program” in which her collection would essentially jumpstart art history studies in the arts of Latin America. Upon further contextual research, I found that her collection eventually went on to form the “Art of the Americas” collection at the Blanton Museum. This correspondence reveals much growth from the founding of the fine arts department and the University Art Museum and reflects attention to the cultural climate of Texas in its proximity to the art of diverse origin.

Embedded throughout the letter is also an urgency to house these works in an effort to expand the network and reach of the University of Texas. Goodall’s mentioning of Duncan’s position at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City is especially telling. He writes, regarding plans to host a course in archival management by Dr. Nettie Lee Benson, that he “hopes to find interested and qualified students and subsequently we hope to establish connections with the library of the Museum of Modern Art.” With Texas having greater proximity to Latin America it is possible there was pressure and urgency to become a leading holder of Latin American knowledge, let alone art and artifacts.