About the Wadsworth
Holding its collection in trust for all people, the Wadsworth Atheneum is dedicated to advancing knowledge and inspiring everyone to experience and appreciate excellence in art and culture.
Founded in 1842 with a vision for infusing art into the American experience, the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art is home to a collection of nearly 50,000 works of art, spanning 5,000 years and encompassing European art from antiquity to contemporary as well as American art from the 1600s through today. The Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art is the oldest continuously-operating public art museum in the United States, opening its doors to the public in 1844.
The Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art was founded by Daniel Wadsworth, one of the first major American art patrons. Daniel Wadsworth originally planned to establish a “Gallery of Fine Arts,” but he was persuaded to create an atheneum, a term popular in the 19th century used to describe a cultural institution with a library, works of art and artifacts, devoted to learning history, literature, art, and science.
The Wadsworth Atheneum has paved the way for encyclopedic museums across the country, presenting engaging and groundbreaking exhibitions that explore every era of art history while consistently being at the forefront of collecting works by artists such as Caravaggio, Frederic Church, Joseph Cornell, Salvador Dalí, and Joan Miró. Today, visitors to the downtown Hartford, Connecticut galleries find captivating and innovative programs mining the iconic holdings and offering new stories that illustrate the breadth and quality of the collection.
Highlights include the Morgan collection of Greek and Roman antiquities and European decorative arts; world-renowned Baroque and Surrealist paintings; an unsurpassed collection of Hudson River School landscapes; European and American Impressionist paintings; Modernist masterpieces; the Serge Lifar collecton of Ballets Russes drawings and costumes; the George A. Gay collection of prints; the Wallace Nutting collection of American colonial furniture and decorative arts; the Samuel Colt firearms collection; costumes and textiles; African American art and artifacts; and contemporary art.
The Wadsworth Atheneum underwent a major renovation from 2010 through 2015. The $33 million project renewed the museum’s historic structures and added 17 new gallery spaces—nearly 16,000 square feet of exhibition space—to the building’s existing footprint for an improved visitor experience.
The Grand Reopening on September 19, 2015 was a seminal moment in the museum’s storied 175-year history. Major exhibition openings and newly refurbished collection galleries dazzle patrons while new interpretive content and interactive technology encourage deeper engagement with the artwork. Completion of the project means that now, for the first time in nearly 50 years, all galleries are simultaneously open for public exploration.
Download the museum’s chronology.
View the Wadsworth’s director history.
Learn more about the Wadsworth’s building history.
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2009 Annual Report