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Description: Paul Mellon’s Legacy: A Passion for British Art
‘Mr. Paul Mellon has long been known as a lover of English art, but it is only in recent years that he has assembled the very remarkable collection which now ranks as one of the finest of its kind either in private or public ownership anywhere in the world.’ Thus wrote Sir Charles Wheeler, the then President of the Royal Academy, on the occasion of the presentation at the Royal Academy...
PublisherYale Center for British Art
Foreword
Sir Nicholas Grimshaw CBE
President, Royal Academy of Arts
‘Mr. Paul Mellon has long been known as a lover of English art, but it is only in recent years that he has assembled the very remarkable collection which now ranks as one of the finest of its kind either in private or public ownership anywhere in the world.’ Thus wrote Sir Charles Wheeler, the then President of the Royal Academy, on the occasion of the presentation at the Royal Academy in the winter of 1964–65 of 304 works acquired by Paul Mellon.
The President’s words were prescient, for over the ensuing three and a half decades Paul Mellon’s taste and knowledge, together with his deep and lasting affection for Britain, ensured that he build so important a collection of British art that its distinction is unique beyond our shores and unquestionably rivals our own national holdings. This would be cause alone for the Royal Academy, an institution created over two hundred years ago for the promotion and support of art, to present an exhibition during the centenary year of his birth. However, there are other, equally compelling reasons for mounting this exhibition here. In recognition of the scale and quality of his acquisitions, the Royal Academy has over the past forty years already held not only the exhibition referred to above, namely Painting in England, 1700–1850, from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon, but also one drawn solely from Mr. Mellon’s exceptional holdings of works by Thomas Rowlandson, Rowlandson Drawings From the Paul Mellon Collection, in 1978. Of equal significance is the fact that Paul Mellon, elected Honorary Corresponding Member in 1977, chose the Royal Academy as one of very few British institutional beneficiaries of his will. Through this selection of his finest paintings, drawings, watercolours, rare books and manuscripts, the current exhibition stands, therefore, as a tribute not only to an exceptional collector, but also to the person who provided the framework within which the academic study of the history of British art has flourished and who was a most generous benefactor.
Paul Mellon’s Legacy: A Passion for British Art is the result of a close collaboration between the Royal Academy and the Yale Center for British Art. It was curated by Brian Allen, Director of Studies at the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, London, John Baskett, former advisor to and close friend of Paul Mellon, and Mary Anne Stevens, Acting Secretary and Senior Curator at the Royal Academy, in consultation with Norman Rosenthal, Exhibitions Secretary of the Royal Academy. Invaluable and enthusiastic support has also been received from colleagues at the Yale Center for British Art, notably its Director, Amy Meyers, and its curators, Angus Trumble, Scott Wilcox and Elisabeth Fairman. In addition, important contributions have been made by the conservators, exhibition organisers and registrars in New Haven and London, including Timothy Goodhue, Hillary Taylor and Cayetana Castillo.
We extend our profound thanks to the Mellon Financial Corporation for their generous support. We also acknowledge Christie’s for a wonderful series of opening events.
This exhibition provides a splendid survey of the great achievements of British art from the rise of the British School to its apogee during the careers of Constable and Turner. Equally it is a reflection of a great collector’s taste and personal commitment to a school of art which until relatively recently had been little recognised. We would hope that our visitors will enjoy, appreciate and understand both aspects of this exceptional story.
Foreword
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