Wednesday, October 03, 2012

The Best of British at Yale

More on Connecticut museums from Laura Sanderson Healy

Over in New Haven, the spectacular collection that is the Yale Center for British Art was philanthropist Paul Mellon’s gift to the university (he selflessly did not want it named for him). Free to the public, it is filled with fantastic works by Old Masters – the horsebreeder Mellon particularly adored equine painter George Stubbs’ work --  and has contemporary rooms as well, thanks to the endowment left for ongoing British study.  The modern boxy building of steel and glass by Louis I. Kahn and is over several light floors right in the middle of downtown New Haven. Mellon’s British collection – strongest in the 18th century, his passion -- includes 2000 paintings, 200 sculptures, 20,000 drawings and watercolors, 30,000 prints, 35,000 rare books and manuscripts. It is a treat to duck in from the hustle of New Haven and find yourself in this treasure trove where you can look at medieval incunables, no appointment necessary, and nose around the 30,000 reference books on British art.

  One staff member was quite imperious when he rushed over to tell me I was too close to an oil. I had been pointing out a detail on a marine painting to my teenaged daughter, and the poor guard was just doing his duty. He could not have known that I grew up the daughter of a gallery director and that I learned not to touch displayed art before I learned to floss my teeth.

The Center has events throughout the year, including the upcoming “A Celebration of Harold Pinter,” directed by John Malkovich and starring Julian Sands (remember him in “A Room with a View”?) Chamber concerts, dance performances, endless lecture series, you name it. I’d like to visit here more often.

The Yale Center for British Art
1080 Chapel Street,
New Haven, Connecticut 06510
Open Tuesday to Saturday 10 to 5, Sundays noon to 5

Photo of Thomas Rowlandson, watercolor, “An Audience Watching a Play at Drury Lane Theatre,” 1785


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