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American Paintings and Sculpture
The collection of American paintings, miniatures, and sculpture at the Gallery offers a teaching resource unparalleled in any university museum and is considered among the greatest public collections of American art in the nation.
About American Paintings and Sculpture
Yale has been collecting American art for more than 250 years. In 1832, it erected the first art museum on a college campus in North America, specifically to house John Trumbull’s paintings of the American Revolution—including his iconic painting Declaration of Independence—and close to one hundred of his portraits of Revolutionary and Early Republic worthies. Since then, the collection of the Yale University Art Gallery has grown to include celebrated works of art from virtually every period in American history. From an exquisite 18th-century watercolor-on-ivory memorial portrait of a bride, to paintings of the towering grandeur of the American West in the 19th century, to the jazz-influenced abstractions of the early 20th century, the Gallery’s collection reflects the diversity and artistic ambitions of the nation.
Superb examples from a “who’s who” of American painters and sculptors—including works by Benjamin West, John Singleton Copley, Ralph Earl, Albert Bierstadt, Hiram Powers, Frederic Church, Frederick Remington, Thomas Eakins, Winslow Homer, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, George Bellows, John Singer Sargent, Joseph Stella, Gerald Murphy, Eli Nadelman, Arthur Dove, Thomas Hart Benton, Edward Hopper, Alexander Calder, and Stuart Davis—bring the complex American story to life. Now these extraordinary works of art are in a new home—the elegantly restored galleries in Street Hall, the magnificent Ruskinian Gothic building designed in 1867 by Peter Bonnett Wight to be the first art school in America on a college campus. Rich in architectural detail and nobly proportioned, these breathtaking spaces allow the American collections to “breathe,” to present new visual alliances, and to create multiple artistic conversations. Under soaring skylights, the uniqueness of vision that generations of American artists brought to bear in the service of their art will be on full display.
Note from the Curator
At the height of the Second World War, modernist American painter George L. K. Morris temporarily discontinued his usual abstract style to produce a series of vigorous semi-representational paintings, in the belief that the wartime period needed a more ordered artistic expression. In Invasion Barge, sharply angled fragments form a puzzle-like scene. The eyes of the helmeted soldiers are transformed into triangles and their heads into trapezoids. Their soldiers’ mouths gape as if shouting over the din of guns. The striated patterns of the trapezoids resemble stairs, suggesting the stairs on invasion barges that shuttled soldiers from large carriers to the shore. Aware of the U.S. policy to limit the display of the American flag only in those ships positioned far afield, so as not to be “sniper bait,” Morris depicted the flag in the distant background.
Helen A. Cooper
The Holcombe T. Green Curator of American Paintings and Sculpture
Meet the Curators
Helen A. Cooper
Helen A. Cooper, the Holcombe T. Green Curator of American Paintings and Sculpture, received her Ph.D. from Yale in 1986. She oversees collections that range from the 17th century to the mid-20th century and has organized major exhibitions on John Trumbull, Winslow Homer, the American West, Thomas Eakins, Childe Hassam, and Eva Hesse. Among her most recent projects was organizing the traveling exhibition Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness: American Art from the Yale University Art Gallery, which opened in 2009 and was on view at the Speed Art Museum, in Louisville, Kentucky; the Seattle Museum of Art; and the Birmingham Museum of Art before opening at the Gallery.Download CV
Keely Orgeman is the Acting Assistant Curator in the Department of American Paintings and Sculpture. Until November 2011, she was the Marcia Brady Tucker Senior Fellow in the same department and contributed entries to A Modern World: American Design from the Yale University Art Gallery, 1920–1950 and the forthcoming catalogue on modern and contemporary works from the Charles B. Benenson Collection. She is currently a Ph.D. candidate in art history at Boston University, where she received the Presidential Fellowship and the Jan and Warren Adelson Fellowship in American Art. While there, she organized the 2008 exhibition Atomic Afterimage: Cold War Imagery in Contemporary Art and authored the accompanying catalogue.Download CV
Cooper, Helen A., ed. John Trumbull: The Hand and Spirit of a Painter, exh. cat. New Haven: Yale University Art Gallery, 1982.
Cooper, Helen A., ed. Thomas Eakins: The Rowing Pictures, exh. cat. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1996.
Cooper, Helen A., Patricia E. Kane, and Gerald W. R. Ward. Francis P. Garvan, Collector, exh. cat. New Haven: Yale University Art Gallery, 1980.
Cooper, Helen A., et al. Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness: American Art from the Yale University Art Gallery, exh. cat. New Haven: Yale University Art Gallery, 2008.
Curry, David Park. Winslow Homer: The Croquet Game, exh. cat. New Haven: Yale University Art Gallery, 1984.
Fillin-Yeh, Susan, et al. Charles Sheeler: American Interiors, exh. cat. New Haven: Yale University Art Gallery, 1987.
Frank, Robin Jaffee. Charles Demuth Poster Portraits: 1923–1929, exh. cat. New Haven: Yale University Art Gallery, 1994.
Frank, Robin Jaffee. Love and Loss: American Portrait and Mourning Miniatures, exh. cat. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000.
Freedman, Paula B. A Checklist of American Sculpture at Yale University. With the assistance of Robin Jaffee Frank. New Haven: Yale University Art Gallery, 1992.
Foster, Kathleen, ed. Edwin Austin Abbey, exh. cat. New Haven: Yale University Art Gallery, 1973.
Hawes, Peter. “A Great Panorama”: Celebrating Twenty-Five Years of American Arts at Yale, exh. cat. New Haven: Yale University Art Gallery, 1998.
Lansing, Amy Kurtz. American Miniatures of Children: 1770–1950, an Interpretive Guide to the Yale University Art Gallery’s Collection, exh. cat. New Haven: Yale University Art Gallery, 2005.
Montgomery, Charles F., and Patricia E. Kane, eds. American Art: 1750–1800, Towards Independence, exh. cat. Boston: New York Graphic Society, 1976. Published for Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
Morgan, John Hill. Paintings by John Trumbull at Yale University. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1926.
Prown, Jules David, et al. Discovered Lands, Invented Pasts: Transforming Visions of the American West, exh. cat. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1992.
Simpson, Marc, Sally Mills, and Patricia Hills. Eastman Johnson: The Cranberry Harvest, Island of Nantucket. San Diego: Timken Art Gallery, 1990.
Sizer, Theodore. The Works of Colonel John Trumbull, Artist of the American Revolution. With the assistance of Caroline Rollins. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1967.
Stebbins, Jr., Theodore E., and Galina Gorokhoff. A Checklist of American Paintings at Yale University. New Haven: Yale University Art Gallery, 1982.