Being Mothers’ Day, I’m going to write about a good son, Max Weitzenhoffer, who honored his mother. Do you know him? I didn’t either until I went to Norman.
Clara Rosenthal was born in Olney, Illinois, attended Wellesley College, and married Aaron Weitzenhoffer, the founder of Davon Oil Company. Aaron’s family had been in Oklahoma since 1888, so Oklahoma City became Clara’s home. At least one of them. They became patrons of the University of Oklahoma, and their son Max graduated from it in 1962.
Max went off to New York and London to become a noted producer. He won two Tony Awards and an Oliver, Great Britain’s equal to a Tony, returned to Oklahoma to raise his family, and was soon in the Oklahoma Hall of Fame and on the University’s Board of Regents.
Clara loved the French Impressionists and amassed a vast collection of their works before she died in 2000. Max gave her collection to the University. This was both the largest donation of French Impressionist art ever made to a public university in the United States and the largest donation ever made to this particular University in Norman with 31,000 students. So the University of Oklahoma has become known for its leadership roles in meteorology, football, and fine art.
Good Son Max even helped the museum show his mother’s collection as she enjoyed it by recreating some rooms in Clara’s Oklahoma City home. Next to her portrait is a Renoir named “Roses” (pictured above). Clara had several Renoirs, but this was her favorite. Clara certainly had excellent taste (Van Gogh, Monet, etc).
You would think that Clara’s treasures would be in the Weitzenhoffer Museum on the campus of the University of Oklahoma in Norman, but they’re not. They’re in the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art, truly one of the finest university art museums in North America that I knew nothing about. The building looks like a series of small Egyptian pyramids atop identical grey and beige boxes. But Fred Jones Jr. and why his name is on this museum is another story for another day. Just know that this is an exceptional 5 Compass museum with an eclectic mix of French Impressionism, outstanding Western and Native American Art, Russian masterpieces, etc.
Happy Mothers’ Day, Clara and Ruth!