The core of the fine art collection was acquired by Hugo and Margaret Dixon with the guidance of the late John Rewald, a leading authority on French Impressionism in the 20th century. The Dixons also collected 18th and 19th century British portraits and landscapes, a reflection of Hugo Dixon's English heritage. Today the Dixon's fine art collection has grown to include various gifts, acquisitions and bequests such as the Noufflard Collection, the Forain Acquisition, the Richie Collection, and the Millennium Gift of Sara Lee Corporation. The Dixon's beautiful collection of paintings continues to delight visitors both at home and abroad.
In accordance with the Dixon's interest, the museum has over the years acquired excellent works by the French Impressionists who showed at one of the eight group Impressionist exhibitions. Also a priority are the works by other top-flight artists of the period, both Impressionist and Realist. An example of this commitment is the Dixon's acquisition in 1993 of 56 works by the French artist Jean-Louis Forain, this making the Dixon a major international repository of the artist's work.
In 1996, in conjunction with the museum's 20th anniversary, the Dixon acquired 23 paintings and sculptures in a gift purchase agreement with the Montgomery H. W. Ritchie family of Palo Duro, Texas. The Ritchie Collection greatly enhanced the museum's holdings of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works, with examples by Claude Monet and George Seurat.
The 2010 exhibition Monet to Matisse: French Masterworks from the Dixon Gallery and Gardens re-examined the permanent collection and its fascinating provenance.
Today the Dixon continues to expand its collection while also advancing art education in both the Memphis community and the world.