Women of Inspiration: Dominique de Menil

Imagine a Parisian aristocrat arriving to live in 1940’s Houston…

Dominique de Menil nee Schlumberger

Instead of bemoaning the swampy, sleepy “town” she devoted herself to what she called her adopted city by pursuing her passions:  art, architecture and civil rights.

Dominique (1908-1997) got busy on the boards of the Houston Museum of Fine Arts, the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Opera, Ballet and Symphony.

Along the way she collected over 17,000 pieces of world class art.

Today, you can enjoy her legacy at The Menil Collection.  Open free to the public.

menil lawn
Menil Collection museum designed by architect Renzo Piano


The Menil Collection is not just one museum, it is a campus of museums: The Rothko Chapel, the Byzantine Chapel, Cy Twombly Gallery, Dan Flavin Installation.   I could write paragraphs on each one of these, but instead, I urge you to visit the website and read at your leisure.

The nondenominational Rothko Chapel.
The peaceful, nondenominational Rothko Chapel.


Across the street from the museum is the Menil Bistro, and under construction is the Menil Drawing Institute.



Dominique was a stylish woman, wearing the top fashion designers of her day and hiring Philip Johnson to design her Houston home.




She wrote books on spirituality and art.  She welcomed civil rights leaders into Houston.  She befriended so many famous artists, but also had time for less famous ones as well.

Always engaged with artists famous and not so famous.
Always engaged with artists famous and not so famous.


On a my recent visit to Houston, I was talking with a museum docent who told me that Dominique requested to be buried in a box of East Texas Pine.

Authenticity and simplicity were her muses.

Who inspires you..when things in your life get a bit fuzzy…?  Let us know below, and maybe I’ll write about them too.

xo Liza


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