American Paintings and Sculpture

The collection of American paintings 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.
Lady Jean
Roger Sherman (1721–1793, M.A. [Hon.] 1768)
Richard, Duke of Gloucester, and the Lady Anne
Isaac Smith (1719–1787)
Rooms by the Sea
Dr. Hezekiah Beardsley (1748–1790)

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.

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Note from the Curator

The Yale University Art Gallery’s American paintings and sculpture collection was reinstalled in summer 2017, refreshing the presentation of the Gallery’s renowned collection of American fine art from the colonial period to the early 20th century. The new layouts of the Richard and Jane Manoogian Foundation Galleries of American Art before 1900 and the Mary Jo and Ted Shen Gallery have reoriented the story of American art for our visitors, and the display was also conceived with the flexibility to integrate rotations of light-sensitive artworks that showcase the richness and depth of the Gallery’s collection. We hope that you will come, enjoy, rediscover old favorites, and find some new ones.

The newly reinstalled collection is introduced by General George Washington at Trenton (1792), John Trumbull’s celebrated full-length portrait that he painted from life, so that visitors may begin their exploration of American art with an iconic figure of the American Revolution. From there, the extraordinary collection of the colonial and Federal periods spotlights the idealism and conviction that shaped the nation’s early identity. The ensuing display across Street Hall features the ambition and ambivalence of American art from the mid- to late 19th century, as expansion and conflict transformed the character of the country. A dedicated focus gallery, which will rotate two or three times per year, draws out themes and special topics from the Gallery’s deep holdings. Finally, the modern gallery, which is located on the bridge above High Street that connects Street Hall to the Old Yale Art Gallery building, has been opened up and its floating walls removed to allow visitors to explore the space more freely.

Mark D. Mitchell

The Holcombe T. Green Curator of American Paintings and Sculpture

John Trumbull, General George Washington at Trenton, 1792. Oil on canvas. Yale University Art Gallery, Gift of the Society of the Cincinnati in Connecticut

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Two figures at a table playing cards.

Technical Examination of Hale Woodruff’s Card Players

Card Players by the American artist and educator Hale Woodruff (1900–1980) is an important recent addition to the Yale University Art Gallery’s collection. During the Gallery’s closure due to the pandemic, the painting received treatment for minor condition issues in the Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage (IPCH) Conservation Lab. Conservators examined the artwork with close looking, microscopy, technical imaging including ultraviolet fluorescence photography, X-ray fluorescence mapping (MA-XRF), and portable Raman spectroscopy, which together revealed many fascinating aspects of the artist’s materials and creative process.

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Meet the Curator

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.

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Half a body shot of Mark D. Mitchell.

Further Reading

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.
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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.