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Personal Best
Yale’s greatest benefactor was also a quintessential connoisseur. His final bequest to the Center for British Art came from the heart.

When Paul Mellon, Class of 1929, was a youngster, his parents introduced him to the pleasures of the English countryside. The “green, green, green” landscape offered a stark contrast to his native Pittsburgh, and, he said, “there seemed to be a tranquility in those days that has never again been found.”

Mellon, who died two years ago at age 91, attempted to recreate a measure of that feeling by collecting English art, particularly paintings, drawings, and rare books that depicted the British sporting life—indeed, anything that had to do with horses. This self-described “galloping Anglophile” bought his first painting, Pumpkin with a Stable-Lad, a 1774 work by George Stubbs, in 1936, and 30 years later, Mellon had amassed a large and hugely important collection, much of which he donated to Yale, along with funds for a museum building, designed by Louis Kahn, and an endowment for its upkeep.

But at the “Brick House”—his country estate in Upperville, Virginia—and at his offices and apartments in New York City, the collector surrounded himself with the work closest to his heart. “Paul Mellon bought for the love of the subject matter, not for the name of the artist,” says Malcolm Warner, curator of paintings and sculpture at the Center for British Art. The collector’s final bequest to the BAC—some 300 paintings, more than 1,000 drawings and watercolors, and 5,000 rare books—is celebrated in an exhibition subtitled “Treasures of a Lifetime” that is on display through April. Says Warner: “This exhibition gives the viewer a feel for Mellon’s more personal side.”  the end





Slide show of Paul Mellon’s Personal Best


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