Karl Weston, the museumâ€™s founder and first director, established the Williams College Museum of Art (WCMA) in 1926 to provide Williams College students with the opportunity for firsthand observation of fine works of art, a privilege he maintained was essential to the study of art. For 22 years Weston taught art history and solicited gifts from alumni for the museum. In 1948 he was followed in both roles by his former student S. Lane Faison, Jr., whose 28-year tenure saw a significant expansion of the art department faculty and curriculum. In the 1970s the collection burgeoned. To complement the 19th-century European holdings of the neighboring Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, WCMA emphasized American art, modern and contemporary art, and the art of Asia and other non-Western civilizations.
In 2001, on the occasion of its 75th anniversary, the museum commissioned Eyes, 2001 a permanent outdoor sculpture by renowned artist Louise Bourgeois. For the museum, the work symbolizes an ongoing dedication to the best of contemporary art and living artists while providing students and visitors a unique outdoor meeting place and central artery to the museumâ€™s front entrance.