The museum focuses on French and American impressionism and features works by Monet, Degas, and Renoir, Pierre Bonnard, Mary Cassatt, Marc Chagall, Honoré Daumier, Henri Fantin-Latour, Paul Gauguin, Henri Matisse, Berthe Morisot, Edvard Munch, Auguste Rodin, and Alfred Sisley, as well as an extensive collection of works by French Impressionist artist Jean-Louis Forain. The museum also houses the Stout Collection of 18th-century German porcelain. With nearly 600 pieces of tableware and figures, it is one of the finest such collections in the United States.
The Dixon also features a comprehensive schedule of original and traveling exhibitions of fine art and horticulture.
The museum sits within four principal outdoor sculpture gardens with Greco-Roman sculpture. Its site was acquired by the Dixons in 1939, and landscaped in the English Garden style with open vistas adjacent to smaller, intimate formal spaces. The major areas within the gardens are the Cutting Garden, Formal Garden, South Lawn, and Woodland Gardens.
The original collection of paintings, on view in the Dixon residence, is devoted to French and American Impressionists, Post-Impressionists, and related schools. The core of the collection was acquired with the guidance of the late John Rewald, a leading authority on French Impressionism. The collection also includes 18th- and 19th-century British portraits and landscapes in keeping with Hugo Dixon's English heritage.
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, who have not yet received the recognition of Degas, Monet, or Pissarro. An example of this commitment is the Dixon's recent acquisition 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 enhances the museum's holdings of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works.
In 2006, the Dixon Gallery and Gardens celebrated 30 years of excellence with a special exhibition highlighting its fantastic permanent collection. Today, the Dixon continues expanding its collection, while also advancing art education in both the Memphis community and the world.
The Dixon Education Department strives to reach diverse audiences and provide an environment that applauds personal interpretation and advances creative thought. The Education Department promotes interest in the arts and horticulture through specific programming for children, adults, and outreach groups.
Some of the Dixon's programs include the childrens program Mini Masters, the adult lecture series Munch and Learn, and the school outreach program Art to Grow. The excellent educational programs at the Dixon are evidenced by the Associate Curator of Education, who was named Tennessee Art Educator of the Year for 2009-2010 by the Tennessee Art Educators Association.