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.
LINKS
LOCATION

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

Jefferson was in most respects a typical slaveholder. Although he always condemned slavery, he did own one of the largest slave populations in Virginia. Upon the division of his father-in-law’s estate in 1774 he became, in fact, the second-largest slaveholder in Albemarle County. Thereafter the number of his slaves remained around two hundred — with increases through births offset by periodic sales to pay off debts. Jefferson was known to be a good master, reluctant to break up families or to sell slaves except for delinquency or at their own request. Nevertheless, between 1784 and 1794 he disposed of 161 people by sale or gift. It is true that Jefferson was averse to separating young children from their parents; but once slave boys or girls reached the age of ten or twelve and their working lives began, they were no longer children in Jefferson’s mind.

Gordon S. Wood
Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789–1815 (2009)