Founded circa 1971–1973 (formerly Sarah Campbell Blaffer Gallery)
by Clifford Crouch • photos by Nicholas Nguyen
Blaffer Art Museum, located on the University of Houston campus (near the intersection of Cullen and Elgin), is but the most visible and outward sign of the ways in which the Blaffer family has graced Houston and the art world.
That grace proceeds in particular from philanthropist Sarah Campbell Blaffer (1885–1975), born 130 years ago on August 27. More broadly speaking, it proceeds from the anointing of Texas oil wealth. As the daughter of William T. Campbell (a founder of Texaco) and the wife of Robert E. Lee Blaffer (a founder of Humble Oil, now ExxonMobil), the Texas-born Sarah might almost be viewed as corporate petroleum merger made; but her interest was less in oil drilling than in oil painting. After her wedding—Ima Hogg was maid of honor—Sarah spent a long European honeymoon that included touring the continent’s art museums. She subsequently became a collector of fine art, and then a patron and benefactor, finally establishing the Sarah Campbell Blaffer Foundation in 1964. Her son John H. Blaffer also contributed the massive Robert Lee Blaffer Wing (completed in 1953) to Houston’s Museum of Fine Arts in memory of his father. The Blaffer Foundation’s extensive collection continues to make works of the old European masters accessible to Texans. H