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Connecticut Museums: Alphabetical List |

Yale Center for British Art
New Haven, Connecticut, U.S.A.
British Art Museum

The Yale Center for British Art was founded by Paul Mellon. It is the final building designed by the American architect Louis I. Kahn (1901-1974). Although Kahn died during the course of the Center's construction, all major design decisions had been made before his death; it was thereby possible for the firm of Pellecchia and Meyers to complete the architectural work in accordance with the original plans and general philosophy of the internationally recognized architect.

The Center is a four-story concrete, steel, and glass structure built on a double courtyard plan.

1080 Chapel Street
New Haven, CT 06510

Tel.: (203) 432-2800
E-mail: bacinfo@yale.edu

Tuesday to Saturday: 10-5
Sunday: 12-5 | Monday: closed except May 21


Yale Center for British Art Web site

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From I-91 and I-95, exit onto 34 West towards downtown New Haven. Leave 34 West at exit 3. Turn right at the first light, York Street. Proceed 2 1/2 blocks. The Center's parking lot is on the right.

The parking lot adjacent to the Center has limited space for cars and mini-vans. In addition to metered street parking, there is indoor parking at the Chapel-York Garage on York Street. Since there is no provision for buses to park near the museum, drivers should drop students off at the corner of Chapel and High Streets and return one hour later.

Lecture & symposias, family & children’s, concerts, tours & talks, films.

Catalogues of exhibitions, educational workbooks, brochures & gallery guides.

Friends of British Art undertake to support the Center by making a minimum contribution of $600 annually. This amount includes $100 in annual dues, a sum which is not tax-deductible. Contributions benefit the collections of the Yale Center for British Art.

Members of the Yale Art Museums:
Student ($15), Individual ($35), Dual/Family ($50) receive invitations to exhibition openings, and exclusive members-only events; invitations and reduced rates for lectures, excursions, family programs, and special events; calendar of events from both museums; 10% discounts as well as special promotions at both museum shops.

Contributors ($100) receive all Member benefits plus copies of the introductory handbooks to both collections. ($40 tax-deductible)

Sponsors ($250) receive Contributor benefits plus one catalogue published by each museum, plus invitations to special events and a private viewing of a major exhibition with the curator. ($150 tax-deductible)

Benefactors ($500) receive the benefits of Sponsorship plus all catalogues published by both museums and two guest passes to one Members' event at the members' rate.($300 tax-deductible)

Khan Fellow (1000+) receive the benefits of a Benefactor membership, plus invitations to exclusive art tours in the US and abroad and four guest passes to one Members' event at the members' rate. ($780 deductable.)

The Collections
Paintings & sculpture

The collection contains about 1500 paintings, and its particular strength in the period from William Hogarth in the eighteenth century to J. M. W. Turner in the nineteenth century reflects the tastes and interests of the Center's founder, Paul Mellon. In a broader way, however, it relates the story of British art since the end of the Middle Ages. There is a choice group of paintings from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, mostly portraits, and also some representative Victorian, modern and contemporary works. Thanks to acquisitions made through the Paul Mellon Fund as well as by Paul Mellon himself, British art of the past hundred years has been a growing strength, and the Center boasts fine holdings in Walter Sickert and the Camden Town Group, the Bloomsbury Group, and Paul Mellon's favorite British painters of his own lifetime: Gwen John, Alfred Munnings, and Ben Nicholson.

The story of British art is by no means confined to British artists; several major figures from Continental Europe and America painted for British patrons or spent periods of their careers in Britain, and these are also represented in the collection. They include Peter Paul Rubens, Anthony van Dyck, Pompeo Batoni, Canaletto, John Singleton Copley, Benjamin West, and James McNeill Whistler.

Prints and Drawings
A collection of over 20,000 drawings and watercolors and over 30,000 prints. The collection offers a comprehensive view of the development of British graphic art, beginning with the great Elizabethan and Jacobean miniaturists, Nicholas Hilliard and Isaac Oliver, and extending through the twentieth century. The emphasis is on the flowering of the British watercolor school in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

The collection was begun by Paul Mellon, whose love of British sporting art is reflected by his acquisition of fine drawings by James Seymour, Sawrey Gilpin, James Ward, and George Stubbs, and an exhaustive selection of sporting prints. Over the years, Mr. Mellon's acquisition of complete collections assembled by distinguished connoisseurs expanded the scope of the collection and came to form its heart.

These important building blocks of the collection have been supplemented by the ongoing acquisition of individual works by artists such as Sir James Thornhill, William Hogarth, Paul Sandby, Alexander and John Robert Cozens, and Sir Joshua Reynolds. There are nearly two hundred lively drawings by Thomas Rowlandson, and William Blake is represented by one of the foremost collections of his illuminated books, in rare combination with his drawings, watercolors, tempera paintings, and prints. Of the nineteenth-century masters, John Constable, Samuel Palmer, Peter DeWint, David Cox, Richard Parkes Bonington, John Ruskin and the Pre-Raphaelites are all well represented. The limitless variety of Turner can be seen in what is perhaps the best balanced group of watercolors by him outside London, together with the important collection of prints by and after Turner assembled by Sir Stephen Courtauld. The collection, rare outside England, of large-scale "exhibition" watercolors culminates in John Frederick Lewis's masterwork The Frank Encampment, of which Ruskin wrote: "One day men will come from far away, and will go back to their homes saying 'I have seen it'." Areas of specialized interest in the collections include architectural drawings, topographical prints, caricatures, mezzotint portraits, and Shakespearean subjects. The architectural collection includes portfolios from the studios of Robert Adam, Sir William Chambers, Sir Jeffry Wyatville, Thomas Hope, and A.W.N. Pugin. There are numerous presentation drawings, often of considerable size and splendor. Among the many topographical prints, the Nathan collection documents, in several thousand engraved views, the architectural transformation of London over three centuries. In 1970 Paul Mellon acquired the Pierpont Morgan collection of mezzotints, which traces the "English manner" of engraving from its earliest appearance in seventeenth-century Holland to its heyday in England at the end of the eighteenth century. In 1976 the Center acquired a large group of drawings and prints from the American Shakespeare Theater of Stratford, Connecticut, which constitutes an important archive of Shakespearean iconography. Recently the Department has expanded its representation of twentieth-century graphic art, with important acquisitions of works by Walter Sickert, Henri Gaudier-Brezska, Duncan Grant, Paul Nash, Edward Burra, and Stanley Spencer. Forty watercolors and drawings by Augustus and Gwen John represent one of the largest collections of their work outside the United Kingdom. There is an equal number of sheets devoted to the decorations for the infamous cabaret club, the Cave of the Golden Calf These include most of Spencer Gore's preparatory drawings for the murals, Eric Gill's design for the entrance sign, and Wyndham Lewis's magnificent watercolor study for his lost oil Kermesse. Among the prints are signature examples and portfolios by Edward Wadsworth, David Bomberg, C.R.W. Nevinson, John Banting, Keith Vaughan, Graham Sutherland, David Hockney, Eduardo Paolozzi, Lucian Freud, Frank Auerbach, Peter Doig, Langlands and Bell, and Gary Hume.

The Study Room
The Department organizes regular exhibitions to show different aspects of its holdings, but these are, of necessity, temporary displays since works on paper are easily damaged by exposure to light. Consequently, the Study Room is the principal means of access to the Center's collections of prints, drawings and rare books should be thought of as a library, rich in historical and cultural information and inviting private exploration. No appointment is required.

Study Room Hours: Tuesday-Friday, 10:00 a.m.-4:30 p.m.

Rare Books & Archives
A rare book collection of approximately 20,000 volumes. The emphasis is on material relating to the visual arts and cultural life in the United Kingdom and former British Empire from the 17th through the end of the 19th century. The collection also includes certain 20th-century private press books as well as a growing collection of contemporary artists' books.

The core of the collection of illustrated books is the material amassed by Major J.R. Abbey, one of the first collectors of British "color-plate" books. That collection, acquired as a whole by Paul Mellon in the 1950s, includes over 2,000 volumes describing British life, customs, scenery, and travel during the period 1770-1860. The often lavish illustrations in these books are the work of Britain's finest landscape artists, including Paul Sandby, David Cox, John Constable, J.M.W. Turner, Samuel Prout, and the Daniell family, among others. At the same time, they form a coherent picture of local topography, architecture, and the sights encountered by British travelers on the Grand Tour in Europe and on more exotic travels to the South Seas, Africa, and India.

The "Life" section of the Abbey collection includes works on many diverse subjects, such as satire and caricature, sports and pastimes, social conduct, etiquette, costume, the army and navy (including fortification designs, accounts of battles and ships), entertainments and theatrical events, music and dance, panoramas, transportation systems (roads, canals, railways), natural history and popular science, illustrated children's books and games, and toy theater. There is a comprehensive collection of material relating to the Great Exhibition of 1851.

Major Abbey's four-volume catalogue of this collection, originally published between 1952 and 1957 (Scenery of Great Britain and Ireland in Aquatint and Lithography, 1770-1860; Life in England in Aquatint and Lithography, 1770-1860; and Travel in Aquatint and Lithography, 1770-1860), remains the standard bibliography, but additions have more than tripled the number of books in the original Abbey Collection. In many cases these additions are of different works in the same subject area; in others they duplicate titles already held, but with plates in different states, with extra illustrations, or in original wrappers with advertisements intact.

Another major collection purchased as a whole by Paul Mellon was that of Rupert Gunnis, antiquary and scholar best known for his Dictionary of British Sculptors. His collection of books and manuscripts on British local history, architecture, sculpture, and genealogy spans four centuries.

The collection also contains quite a number of early maps and atlases. All the important British cartographers are represented and the great landmarks of British cartography may be found as well, including Christopher Saxton's county atlas, John Speed's Theater of the Empire of Great Britain, John Ogilby's Britannia, John Seller's English Pilot, a unique copy of Des Barres' Atlantic Neptune, many editions of the atlases of Moll, Morden, and Jefferys, as well as the first edition of the Ordnance Survey maps of Great Britain and 3,000 loose county maps in various states and editions. One of the great treasures of the collection is the earliest surviving manuscript map showing Sir Francis Drake's circumnavigation (ca. 1587)

The extensive collection of illustrated books also provides a survey of the history of color printing from the earliest examples of the 18th-century revival of the chiaroscuro woodcut to aquatint to the development of chromolithography in the 1850s. There are works printed by George Baxter and his followers in the art of chromoxylography, as well as earlier material color-printed in mezzotint or stipple engraving.

The collection includes hundreds of artists' manuals, dating from 1600-1900. They range from simple drawing manuals to advanced treatises on technique, perspective, optics, pigments, anatomy, and aesthetic theory. Some copies were owned by British artists and contain their annotations. There are groups of material by and about John Ruskin, works of the wood engraver Thomas Bewick, and a collection of books and manuscripts relating to Sir Joshua Reynolds bequeathed to the Center in 1973 by Frederick W. Hilles. Archival material in the collection includes letters, journals, and account books by artists, including Thomas Gainsborough, David Roberts, James Ward, A.W.N. Pugin, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Edward Burne-Jones, and Vanessa Bell. The extensive James Bruce archive contains journals, letters, drawings, and watercolors relating to his 18th-century expedition undertaken to discover the source of the Nile.

Although the book collection is particularly strong in 18th- and 19th-century holdings, it also includes some of the first books printed in the English language. There are thirteen books printed by William Caxton, as well as representative examples of other 15th- and 16th-century printers. The collection also includes some 1,300 individual leaves from illustrated incunables (books printed before 1501), most from books printed on the Continent.

Computerized cataloging of the Center's rare books is in progress. Records for the collection are on ORBIS and provide detailed access by author, title, subjects, artists and engravers, techniques of illustration, publishers and printers, place of publication, provenance and binder.

The Study Room
The Department organizes regular exhibitions to show different aspects of its holdings, but these are, of necessity, temporary displays since works on paper are easily damaged by exposure to light. Consequently, the Study Room is the principal means of access to the Center's collections of prints, drawings, and rare books.


With our thanks to the Yale Center for British Art for providing the information