Yale University Art Gallery

New Haven
CT

The renovated Art Gallery comprises three structures — Street Hall, the Old Art Gallery building, and the Kahn building. Below, John Trumbull and contemporaries.

QUICK FACTS
  • The original neoclassical Picture Gallery had two large skylit rooms on the upper floor for the display of art. The north gallery was devoted to Trumbull’s paintings; the south gallery displayed paintings by other artists, including John Smibert, Ralph Earl, and Samuel F.B. Morse.
  • When collection in the Picture Gallery moved to Street Hall in 1867, the original building served as office space until it was demolished in 1901.
  • John Trumbull and his wife are buried in a stone tomb beneath the Old Art Gallery.
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Home to one of the finest collections of early American art anywhere, the Yale University Art Gallery was founded in 1832 when John Trumbull gave more than one hundred of his portraits and historical paintings to Yale and designed a Picture Gallery for them. It is the oldest university art museum in the western hemisphere.

In December 2012 the Yale University Art Gallery reopened to the public after completing a ten-year renovation and expansion. It comprises three structures — Street Hall (1866), the Old Art Gallery building (1928), and the modernist and magnificent Louis Kahn building (1953).

The art of Trumbull and his contemporaries and other early American art are located in Street Hall (the building designed by Trumbull was razed in 1901).

Associated People

As students of Voltaire, Diderot, and Rousseau are always reminding us, the age of reason was really an age of sentiment. In this too, Washington was a man of his age. When he established the first general decoration in the American Army, the Purple Heart, it was not (as it became in the twentieth century) an award available to all soldiers wounded in the line of duty. Only privates and noncomissioned officers could win the original Badge of Military Merit, a cloth-shaped heart sewn over the man’s actual heart, which allowed him to pass all guards and sentinels which officers are permitted to do. The symbol was not of heart’s blood shed, but of virtue proceeding from the heart. Limiting the award to nonofficers was meant to indicate that great virtue can be shown regardless of rank — that in Washington’s words, the road to glory in a patriot army and a free country is thus open to all.

Garry Wills
Cincinnatus: George Washington & the Enlightenment (1984)