Anne Marion loved the works of Georgia O’Keeffe but believed the artist’s brilliance needed to be shared beyond the walls of her own home.
That devotion led her to establish the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, now one of the city’s top attractions.
“She was passionate about O’Keeffe not only as an artist but for her role in American history,” Saul Cohen, a founding board member of the museum, said of Marion. “She wanted to share the whole story with Santa Fe and the world.”
Marion, a rancher, philanthropist and arts patron, died Tuesday in California, according to a statement from the museum. She was 81.
“I’ve always loved her work. I grew up with it in my home — my mother had two of her paintings,” Marion said of O’Keeffe’s works when the museum opened, according to the Associated Press.
Marion and her husband, John Marion, opened the museum in 1997 with 50 paintings, many from her personal collection, and grew the inventory to include around 3,000 items both downtown and at O’Keefe’s former home and studio in Abiquiú.
Marion was an oil and cattle heiress who Forbes magazine named one of the 400 richest Americans with a $1.5 billion net worth in 2008. According to the magazine, her great-grandfather amassed 448,000 acres in the Texas Panhandle where he struck oil in 1912. Marion inherited land, royalties and interest from her family’s Burnett Oil company.
“She was a true Texan,” former President George W. Bush said in a statement.
In Texas, Marion inherited and managed the roughly 350,000-acre Four Sixes Ranch, which had a barn that was featured in Marlboro cigarette ads in the 1960s and ’70s. She was inducted into the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame in 2005.
Marion remained chairwoman of the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum’s board of trustees until 2016. Its collection now comprises 140 oil paintings, nearly 700 drawings, and hundreds of additional works dating from 1901-84.
O’Keeffe, who lived in New Mexico for several decades, died in 1986.
“The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum exists today because of her will to create a single-artist museum devoted to Georgia O’Keeffe’s work and legacy over twenty years ago,” museum director Cody Hartley said in a statement. “It is because of Anne Marion’s vision that Georgia O’Keeffe’s legacy thrives in northern New Mexico and connects with audiences from around the world.”
In addition to the Georgia O’Keefe Museum, Marion backed the construction of a modern art museum in Fort Worth, Texas, along with John Marion, a former chairman of the auction and real estate firm Sotheby’s.