Yale University Art Gallery

New Haven, CT




From John Trumbull to Edward Hopper: The Making of American Masterpieces

October 29, 1999 through January 2, 2000

Four Centuries of American Art and Design

November 9, 1999 through February 27, 2000


Selections from the Yale Art Gallery's renowned collections of American paintings, sculpture, and decorative arts will be exhibited on the museum's first floor this fall and winter, while the American galleries are undergoing a complete renovation. This redesign and rehanging is the first major change since the 1973 creation of the Garvan Galleries of American Arts and the American Experience - considered at the time to be a groundbreaking installation. The first exhibition From John Trumbull to Edward Hopper: The Making of American Masterpieces, will be on view from October 29, 1999, through January 2, 2000. Four Centuries of American Art and Design opens on November 9, 1999, and closes on February 27, 2000.


From John Trumbull to Edward Hopper: The Making of American Masterpieces

The Yale Art Gallery is fortunate to have not only finished works by many of America's leading artists but also the preparatory drawings or sketches. For this exhibition a select group is being displayed along with these studies - on paper, in oils, and even in bronze.

In 1832 the patriot-artist John Trumbull gave - in return for an indemnity - more than one hundred of his paintings to Yale, thus creating the first college art museum in the western hemisphere. Since then the Yale University Art Gallery's department of prints, drawings, and photographs has acquired studies for many of these works, including one of the best known American images, The Declaration of Independence, 4, July, 1776. This and three other Trumbull history paintings are displayed along with studies on paper and an oil sketch.

Of the many paintings by Thomas Eakins (1844-1916) in Yale's collection, three will be shown with related preparatory works. Since 1932, Yale has owned the oil John Biglin in a Single Scull, thought to be a study for a watercolor of the same subject. In 1998, Paul Mellon gave the watercolor to the Art Gallery and both will be shown. Eakins's portrait Katherine (Girl with a Cat) will be next to his graphite study of this young woman, and his oil sketch William Rush Carving his Allegory of the Schuylkill River will be accompanied by two small bronze figure studies he sculpted.

In 1937 the Art Gallery received an extensive bequest of works by Edwin Austin Abbey (1852 - 1911) from the artist's widow. These included numerous studies, which will be exhibited with two finished paintings based on plays by Shakespeare: Richard, Duke of Gloucester, and Lady Anne and The Play Scene in Hamlet.. (left: Edwin Austin Abbey, Richard, Duke of Gloucester, and Lady Anne, 1896)

Three studies for Sunlight in a Cafeteria by Edward Hopper(1882-1967), in charcoal and graphite, offer a revealing insight into the way the artist worked out the final painted composition. One of the Art Gallery's most beloved paintings, Lady Jean, an extraordinary portrait of a young girl by George Bellows (1882-1925) can now be shown with a preparatory drawing given to Yale just this year. (right: Edward Hopper, Sunlight in a Cafeteria , 1958)

The installation concludes with two pieces from the decorative arts collection, a silver and lapis lazuli bowl designed by Charlotte Bone together with her drawing of the design, and Tom Loeser's Folding Chair with his preparatory drawing.


Four Centuries of American Art and Design

For this exhibition key works from Yale's collections of decorative arts, paintings, and sculpture are displayed in small thematic groupings. "We needed to select objects that reflect not only the range of our collections, but include key works for teachers at all levels," said Patricia E. Kane, curator of American decorative arts. "These objects seemed to fall readily into tableaux, as it were, of aspects of American life over the past four centuries."

The first of these indicates the importance of Architecture in the emerging republic, with portraits of architects and such objects as the late eighteenth century Goddard-Townsend desk and bookcase with its magnificent façade. Two twentieth-century chairs designed by architects Frank Lloyd Wright and Robert Venturi lead into the next area, Chairs as Status Symbols. Here the simple, but none-the-less throne-like, Wainscot "President's chair" from the mid-seventeenth century contrasts with the eighteenth-century rococo chair with a back splat carved in the shape of the owner's monogram. Two John Singleton Copley portraits indicate the importance this great American artist placed on luxurious seating to emphasize the social distinction of his wealthy clients.

Similar combinations of objects are grouped under such themes as, Patriotism, the West, Industrial Landscapes, Vanity, Lounging, Writing, and Labor.

The exhibitions were organized by Helen A. Cooper, the Holcombe T. Green Curator of American Paintings and Sculpture, Ms. Kane, Meredith Cohen, an intern in the American arts department, and Glenn Adamson, a graduate student in the history of art.


Read more about the Yale University Art Gallery in Resource Library

For further biographical information on selected artists cited above please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists.

rev. 11/26/10

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