Paul Mellon Bequest: Treasures of a Lifetime

Saturday, February 17, 2001
Sunday, April 29, 2001

When Paul Mellon died in February 1999, he left the Center nearly three hundred paintings, sixty-four mostly small-scale sculptures, large numbers of drawings and prints, and a magnificent group of rare books. These were the works he chose to keep for his own pleasure until the end of his life, and they represent the more personal side of his great British collection. To the vast array of his gifts to the Center since its opening in 1977, they brought a firmer sense of his own life, character, and interests.

Mellon’s passion for English country life was rooted in childhood experiences: his aversion to the grim, moneymaking world of his unresponsive father, his happy early visits to England, homeland of his mother. For him England was truly a green and pleasant land. Taken together, the works in the bequest present an idyllic vision of the place, green and fresh, a paradise of hunting, shooting, fishing, and horseracing.

George Stubbs, Pumpkin with a Stable-lad (detail), 1774, oil on panel, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection


This exhibition included about 150 paintings from the bequest, with a complementary selection of sculptures, drawings, and rare books. Among the highlights were eleven paintings by George Stubbs, eighteen oil sketches by John Constable, a small painting on copper by William Blake, and nine paintings, largely of equine subjects, by the early twentieth-century painter Robert Bevan.

Malcolm Warner, a former Curator of Paintings and Sculpture at the Center, curated the exhibition, which was accompanied by a published illustrated catalogue.