Hartford, Connecticut lies 125 miles northeast of New York City. A medium size city, it is the capital of the State of Connecticut. While it is rarely spoken of as an art center, it is home to an encyclopedic art museum and cultural institution - - The Wadsworth Atheneum.
The Wadswoth's art collection covers some 5,000 years and includes some 50,000 items. It has an impressive collection of French Impressionist works including paintings by Monet, Renoir, Manet, Cezanne and Gauguin. At the same time, it has an outstanding collection of 19th century American art ranging from the Hudson River School to artists such as Sargent and Cassatt and the American Impressionists. European masters such as Caravaggio, Vige Le Brun, Artemisia, Hals, Van Dyck and Boucher are represented. 20th century art includes works by Picasso, Miro, Matisse, Marsh, Pollock, Rauschenberg and Rothko. The Wadsworth is also strong in ancient Roman and Egyptian art.
Opening its doors in 1842, the Wadsworth is the oldest continuously operating art museum in the United States. Its founder, Daniel Wadsworth, was a wealthy resident of Hartford who wanted to bring fine art to the American experience. To that end, he proposed to create an art gallery based upon art collection. Friends persuaded him to think on a grander scale and build an institution that would promote not just art but learning and culture in general. Therefore, the new institution also included a library and acted as a venue for the performing arts and lectures. Accordingly, the institution was called an atheneum rather than a gallery.
To house the atheneum, architects Alexander Jackson Daves and Itheil Town were hired to construct a castle-like structure on the site of the Wadsworth family home. Subsequently, four wings were added to the castle in various architectural styles. A $33 million dollar renovation project was completed in 2015. There is some 75,000 square feet of exhibition space.
In addition to its permanent collection, the Wadsworth houses temporary exhibitions and various cultural events.
We were impressed by our visit to the Wadsworth. While we knew that this museum housed some famous works of art, the scope and quality of the collection was unexpected. It is a museum that one could spend days exploring but which also lends itself to a short visit. As a result of the 2015 renovations, the Wadsworth is a modern facility housed in historic buildings. It has good lighting and the flow between the galleries allowed us to move through the museum with ease. Knowledgeable and friendly doyennes were stationed in several of the galleries.
For more information on visiting, see the Wadsworth's website.
Above: A gallery focusing on works by the French Impressionists.
Below: The entrance hall is a mixture of modern and historical construction.
Places to see art - - Hartford, Connecticut - - Wadsworth Atheneum