A leading voice on Texas art has gone to stroll for eternity through that great Onderdonk painting in the sky.
Edmund P. “Ted” Pillsbury, chairman of fine arts at Dallas-based Heritage Auction Galleries and former director of the Kimbell Art Museum, died yesterday at 66 in Kaufman County. Cause of death is not yet known.
“He was an internationally known art scholar but sitting and talking to him over Mexican food, people didn’t realize it because he was such an approachable and easy guy to know,” Fort Worth art enthusiast and Amon Carter Museum docent Morris Matson said.
He could also be irascible. I interviewed him numerous times for art stories over the years and he didn’t suffer foolish questions from art writers gladly. At those times, he was a combination of impatience and genteel courteousness. Mostly, though, he was engaging, passionate, and brilliant on matters of art, from a dingy bluebonnet painting by a barely listed artist from a small Texas town, to the latest Michelangelo discovery.
Pillsbury is credited with bringing international renown to the Kimbell during his 18 years as director.
The Yale graduate held a variety of interesting positions in his career: former SMU art professor and director of SMU’s Meadows Museum; member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences; and private advisor to Las Vegas magnate Steve Wynn during the creation of the Bellagio Gallery, to name a few.
The Minneapolis native was great-grandson of the founder of the famous Pillsbury food company.
Several weeks ago, Pillsbury met friends for lunch at Ol Rip’s Tex-Mex Restaurant near Texas Christian University. Pillsbury was excited about discovering a major painting by one of Fort Worth’s early artists, and he couldn’t wait to share the news with trusted pals. But negotiations on that deal are still underway and, at this stage, it’s hush-hush.
I was itching to write a story about the new discovery, but they barred me from the conversation. Afterward, however, one of them called me on the cell phone and invited me to come hang out. Pillsbury, as usual, was talkative and smiling. Although he was an international jetsetter, he always enjoyed coming to Fort Worth and enjoying Mexican food and conversation with his art-loving buddies.
Here’s a photo from that day:
(Local art collectors pictured left to right: Matson, Bill Cheek, Cy Barkus, A.C. Cook, Pillsbury, and Ed Denari — photo by Jeff Prince).
Trust me, I’ll find out about that secret art deal before long and share it with Fort Worth Weekly readers.