Des Moines Women’s Club (DMWC), founded in 1885, created the first art collection in the city of Des Moines, one of the earliest and most distinctive in Iowa. It focuses mainly on the art and patronage patterns of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, including works by Iowa artists. DMWC founders decided to establish and fund a collection that could be viewed by the public. Its first purchase was a bronze statue of Joan of Arc exhibited at the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893, a sculpture still on display at Hoyt Sherman Place. The collection continued to grow and found its permanent home at Hoyt Sherman Place in 1907, becoming the first public art gallery in Des Moines.
Art Gallery History
As part of their patronage of art, DMWC hosted their first art exhibition in 1909, which for many decades was the primary venue for artists in Des Moines. Their annual art exhibition is still a popular tradition today.
In 1922, Major S.H.M. Byers and his wife, Margaret, bequeathed their private collection of art and artifacts to DMWC, and a second chamber was added to house this collection. The majority of these works are still on display including paintings by American artists George Inness, Thomas Moran, Elihu Vedder, and Frederick Frieseke.
The highlight of the entire collection is Apollo and Venus by the Flemish artist Otto van Veen, which is regarded now as the most important Old Master painting in the state of Iowa. On loan since 1923, the painting was ultimately given to DMWC in 1952 by Louise Coskery from the Collins-Coskery Collection. In 2018, it was rediscovered in a storage closet by Executive Director Robert Warren and restored to its original beauty by Barry Bauman, an art conservator in Chicago.
Hoyt Sherman Place is proud to house and display this distinctive collection. Not only is the organization committed to displaying and expanding its historic holdings, but it also emphasizes and supports the continuing preservation of its art and artifacts. Continued financial support provides the resources to fund the restoration, maintenance, and preservation of the theater, art gallery, and mansion.
TAKE A TOUR
Hoyt Sherman Place offers tours of the mansion, art gallery, and theater for school groups, Scout groups, and the general public.