American Paintings and Sculpture
About American Paintings and Sculpture
Yale University 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, with the intention of housing John Trumbull’s paintings of the American Revolution—including his iconic painting The Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776—and close to 100 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. Encompassing works like an exquisite 18th-century watercolor-on-ivory memorial portrait of a bride, paintings of the towering grandeur of the American West in the 19th century, and 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
This painting by Horace Pippin is a recent major acquisition by the Gallery’s Department of American Paintings and Sculpture. Privately owned since shortly after the artist’s death in 1946, the painting is now on view in a public museum for the first time. Drawn from Pippin’s memory of his childhood home in Goshen, New York, the scene focuses on the interaction between mother and child, likely Pippin himself. Rendering the room’s simple comforts, Pippin shows the peachy glow of light cast by the gas lantern, his kneeling mother cushioned by one of the rag rugs, the warm bath water from the steaming kettle on the stove, the dog eager for the boy’s attention, the toy locomotive poised for another journey across the floor boards, and the tiny shirt, pants, and shoes laid out for wear on Sunday morning. Pippin was one of the first self-taught African American artists to achieve significant recognition during his lifetime. Praised for his freshness and originality, he was embraced by critics searching for art that embodied modernity and distinctly American qualities. Saturday Night Bath was included in a critically acclaimed group show in 1945 at Edith Halpert’s Downtown Gallery, the premier commercial venue for contemporary art in New York, where it was shown alongside works by Stuart Davis, Georgia O’Keeffe, Charles Sheeler, and others.
Alice and Allan Kaplan Assistant Curator of American Paintings and Sculpture
Horace Pippin, Saturday Night Bath, 1945. Oil on canvas. Yale University Art Gallery, Purchased in honor of Helen A. Cooper, M.A. 1975, Ph.D. 1986, with gifts from Jerald Dillon Fessenden, B.A. 1960; Nancy and Holcombe Green, B.A. 1961, HON. 1999; Mary Jo and Ted Shen, B.A. 1966, HON. 2001; Barbara and John Robinson, L.G. 1975; Fleur E. Fairman, B.A. 1978; Evelyn H. and Robert W. Doran, B.A. 1955; Alice Kaplan; Jean E. and Robert E. Steele, M.P.H. 1971, M.S. 1974, Ph.D. 1975; S. Roger Horchow, B.A. 1950, HON. 1999; and Jan Mayer; and purchased with the Stephen Carlton Clark, B.A. 1903, Fund; Friends of American Arts Acquisition Fund; The Iola S. Haverstick Fund for American Art; and the Heinz Family Fund
Meet the Curators
Mark D. Mitchell
Mark D. Mitchell is the Holcombe T. Green Curator of American Paintings and Sculpture. He came to Yale in August 2015 from the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where he organized Audubon to Warhol: The Art of American Still Life and George Inness in Italy. He completed his doctorate at Princeton in 2002 and previously worked at the Princeton University Art Museum, Hood Museum of Art at Dartmouth College, and National Academy Museum in New York. His research interests in American art extend from the colonial period to the later twentieth century, with particular depth in landscape and still-life painting.Download CV
Keely Orgeman is the Alice and Allan Kaplan 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. She has contributed entries to A Modern World: American Design from the Yale University Art Gallery, 1920–1950 and Eye on a Century: Modern and Contemporary Art from the Charles B. Benenson Collection at the Yale University Art Gallery. She received her PH.D. from Boston University in 2014, writing her dissertation on representations of radioactivity in postwar American art. While at BU, she received the Presidential Fellowship and the Jan and Warren Adelson Fellowship in American Art, and she organized the 2008 exhibition Atomic Afterimage: Cold War Imagery in Contemporary Art and authored its 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.