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aDSC 0156 790TrumbullJohn Trumbull (1756-1843), Battle of Bunker Hill 


Observant readers may remember the Independence Day special on the works of John Trumbull at Yale University Art Gallery, the Yale Collection is so much more. Founded in 1832 with the gift of Trumbull’s work the collection has grown tremendously, the gallery was closed for renovation but reopened in Dec 2012 to popular and critical acclaim.[1] Where before the Yale gallery occupied a 1953 Louis Kahn building (a runty sibling to Kahn’s Yale Center for British Art across the road) and half of the 1928 Old Yale Art Gallery, it is now spread across three contiguous buildings on Chapel Street: those two, and the adjacent 1866 Street Hall. All three are connected by sensitive architectural interventions and restorations, carried out by Duncan Hazard and Richard Olcott, of New York’s Ennead Architects. Aside from the restoration work, the project’s most notable features are a sleek stairway and elevator connecting the Old Yale Art Gallery and the Street Hall building, and a zinc-and-glass-clad rooftop structure adding substantial new exhibition space and a sculpture terrace. What stands out?

Several answers, first admission is free, this may sound trivial, but if traveling with others, this can add up. Parking will be difficult when the college is in session, but this was penned in July when no such difficulty is encountered feeding a meter on Chapel Street in New Haven. Second, some of the paintings are world class. Over used words? You decide:

aDSC 0054 790TudorMichael Sittow (1469-1515), Isabela la Católica of Castile, ca. 1492-97, Oil on panel. Lent by Dr. and Mrs. Schaefer.

Yes, the same Queen of Castile then Spain who financed Columbus to sail across the Ocean Blue back in the year 1492. No Isabela, no Columbus, No America, no annual native protests on Columbus Day, a world remains shrouded in darkness.

aDSC 0051 790HolbeinHans Holbein (1497-1543), Portrait of a Hanseatic Merchant, 1538

Hans Holbein Unidentified sitter, one of maybe 100 known examples by this important artist in the world. Painted in 1538 when the artist took a rare leave of his usual English environs to return to continent.

aDSC 0142 790ChurchFrederic Edwin Church (1825-1900), Mount Ktahdin, 1853

A pupil of Thomas Cole (1801-1848), in his day Frederic Church achieved near rock star kind of status for the displays his paintings were accorded in single work exhibitions. Viewers would line up around a city block to see his latest creation. His work went into obscurity after his death, though the rediscovery of his lost masterpiece, The Icebergs, found in a British orphanage in 1979 launched the economic resurgence of the entire school. Yale graduate Robert Weimann, Junior was the pioneer who found Ktahdin in attics in the 1960’s and 1970’s.

aDSC 0114 790LaneFitz Henry Lane (1806-1965), Lighthouse at Camden, Maine, 1852

A New England contemporary of the Hudson River School, Lanes favorite subject matter to depict on canvas were scenes of the New England coast, particularly Maine. This coast line remains beset by some of the world’s most ferocious tides, but often have moments of tranquility, particularly at sunset that imbue the region a transcendent beauty unmatched anywhere.

aDSC 0151 790GiffordSanford Robinson Gifford (1823-1880), Hook Mountain on the Hudson, 1866

A close friend and neighbor of Frederic Church, this work encapsulates the artist’s internal emotions at the end of the American Civil War. While a northern triumph that forged modern America, it came at great cost, including that of Gifford’s own brother Edward who died in 1863. An older brother Charles died two years earlier in 1861. The mighty Hudson flows on by inexorably to the sea, like a mortal to his own destiny.

aDSC 0200 790HeadeMartin Johnson Heade (1819-1904), Lynn Meadows (Massachusetts), 1863,

In his own day regarded as a fac totem for his better known friend Frederic Church, Heade enjoyed rediscovered status in the 20th century where his quasi surreal hints of industry on a marshy landscape accorded and better response than in the day of its creation. Yale graduate Dr. Ted Stebbins Class of 1960 produced a number of books on the artist.

aDSC 0180 790HomerWinslow Homer (1836-1910), Old Mill (Morning Bell), 1871.

Originally an illustrator for Harpers, Homer was the first American to become aware of French avante guard trends in art. This happened in 1866-67, on a trip to Paris, France where he took in the works of Gustave Courbet, Edouard Manet, and Eugene Boudin. Contemporary reviewers note his interest in French peasant life. Evidently Morning Bell was Homer’s American analogy to the toil of French peasants. Another reviewer saw Japanese influences when he wrote: If Homer has been struck by the harshlines of a Japanese design, he gives us an American mill scene, so convincingly painted as to prove to us that we have similar reliefs all around our own doors[2]

French 19th century.

aDSC 0064 790courbetGustave Courbet (1819-1877), Landscape with Waterfall, 1865,

The French Barbizon artists began their back to nature emphasis, much the way the lead figures in Victor Hugo’s novel Les Miserables hid out in the country as a way of evading the secret police after the failed uprisings of 1830 and 1848. Courbet said this of himself, I am fifty years old and I have always lived in freedom; let me end my life free; when I am dead let this be said of me: 'He belonged to no school, to no church, to no institution, to no academy, least of all to any régime except the régime of liberty.[3]

aDSC 0072 790boudinEugene Boudin (1824-1898), Beach Scene at Trouville, 1870-1874

Eugene Boudin (1824-1898), Beach Scene at Trouville, 1870-1874. Boudin befriended a younger artist named Claude Monet in 1857 and convinced him to give up drawings and pick up the brush. Later Monet, after being discovered by Paul Durand Ruel in London 1870-1871, flush with success remembered those loyal in times past, so he invited Boudin to join the Impressionist show in 1874. Despite that Boudin never considered himself a radical or an innovator, just an artist who painted en plein air.

aDSC 0069 790monetClaude Monet (1840-1926), Camille at the Beach in Trouville, 1870

One of five known related works painted by Monet while at Trouville in 1870, the Franco Prussian War quickly pushed Monet from plans for the salon into crossing the English Channel where as a war refugee in London he was rescued from poverty by the patronage of fellow war refugee Paul Durand-Ruel, thus his career was made.

aDSC 0077 790renoirPierre Auguste Renoir (1841-1919), Mount of Sainte-Victoire, 1888

A visual eyeful, this colorful scene of southern France opened up the possibility for others in his wake, like Paul Gauguin and Vincent van Gogh to go south and experiment with their synthetic palette on an actual brightly lit landscape.

aDSC 0091 790CezannePaul Cezanne (1839-1906), House of Dr. Gachet in Auvers sur Oise, 1872

An atypical Cezanne for being painted so far north, this subject matter was home of the famous homeopathic physician Dr. Gachet, who years later attempted to console then treat Vincent van Gogh in his twilight hours of melancholy.

aDSC 0101 790vanGoghVincent van Gogh (1853-1890), The Night Café, 1888

A garish masterpiece that showed van Gogh had absorbed Paul Gauguin’s synthetic palette while depicting the night life of an Arles bar/pool hall at 12:10pm. This synthetic palette is considered by many people to be the launching point of expressionism. Other themes detected here also went on a ballistic trajectory, within a short while the relationship between van Gogh and Gauguin reached its tragic climax. Van Gogh sans ear in an asylum and Gauguin by 1891 headed on a ship around the world towards Tahiti. As a side note, yes this painting does exhibit the proper condition of impacted impasto.

aDSC 0097 790GauguinPaul Gauguin (1848-1903), Parau Parau, 1892

Vincent’s one time friend and erstwhile artistic mentor whose flight from civilization around the globe remains a fountain of inspiration for hedonists and feminists alike. It has been noted that Gauguin, much like van Gogh, rolled up his canvases[4] with this one too displaying the authentic scars of such storage and transit. Less of an impacted impasto and more like lateral horizontal stress marks in the canvas. Not a negative thing, more of a passport stamp that this work indeed was painted in Tahiti then shipped back to Europe. Eventually the painting was purchased by John Hay Whitney (1904-1982), Yale Class of 1926 whose estate donated the work to Yale in 1982.

aDSC 0102 790DegasEdgas Degas (1834-1917), The Jockeys, 1882

aDSC 0103 790DegasEdgar Degas (1834-2927), Four Jockeys, 1889

Yale University Art Gallery Current Exhibitions
[2] New York Evening Post, July 6, 1872
[3] Courbet, Gustave: Letters of Gustave Courbet, 1992, University of Chicago Press, Translated by Petra Ten-Doesschate Chu
[4] John Rewald, Studies in Post Impressionism, Harry Abrams, NY, 1986, page 85


About the Author

Robert Alexander Boyle

Robert Alexander Boyle

 Alexander Boyle is a graduate of Trinity College, Hartford, CT where he majored in History. Prior to graduation he co-authored the seminal book Acid Rain in 1983. Alex has worked for the Metropo...