Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Connecticut:
Founded in 1842, the Wadsworth Atheneum is America’s oldest public art museum. The story of the museum began with the birth of its founder, Daniel Wadsworth, the first great American art patron. On August 8, 1771, Daniel was born into Hartford’s most influential family at their home on Main Street. Daniel’s father, Jeremiah Wadsworth, was a wealthy merchant and statesman who supplied the Continental Army with vital goods during the American Revolution as Commissary General. George Washington visited the Wadsworth home three times: in 1775, again with Rochambeau, Hamilton and Lafayette in 1780 and while president in 1789.
As a youngster, Daniel was well-educated and introduced to art and architecture of the royal courts of Europe on trips abroad with his father. Daniel Wadsworth married Faith Trumbull in 1794 and became acquainted with her uncle, John Trumbull, one of the period’s most celebrated painters. He took many trips with Trumbull and educator Benjamin Silliman to Niagara Falls and the White Mountains to sketch landscapes. In 1841, Daniel Wadsworth, an accomplished artist and architect donated his Main Street Hartford land and $6,500 to construct an art gallery.
Nowadays, the Wadsworth Atheneum is comprised of five interconnected buildings:
- Wadsworth building: Gothic Revival structure completed in 1844 and designed by prominent architects of their time, Ithiel Town and Alexander Jackson Davis.
- Colt Memorial: Tudor Revival designed by Benjamin Wistar Morris in 1919 and contributed by the estate of Elizabeth Colt.
- Morgan Memorial: Renaissance Revival architecture, finished in 1915 and donated by banking titan J.P. Morgan in memory of his father, Junius.
- Avery Memorial: Beaux-arts building opened in 1934 after Samuel Avery bequeathed his art and funds to build the first American museum with a modern International Style interior.
- Goodwin building: late modernist style, opened to the public in 1969 and named after James Lippincott Goodwin, an architect and Atheneum trustee.
More than 50,000 works of art at Wadsworth Atheneum span over 5,000 years of history.
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