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Wadsworth Atheneum

Museums, Galleries and Archives (National Museums and Smithsonian Affiliates)


The Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, the oldest public art museum in the United States, was founded in 1842 by Daniel Wadsworth, one of the first important American patrons of the arts. Its collections include around 50,000 works of art produced over a 5,000-year time span. Visitors can enjoy the Morgan collection of Greek and Roman antiquities and European decorative arts; baroque and surrealist paintings; an acclaimed 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. Although Daniel Wadsworth at first planned to open “a Gallery of Fine Arts,” he was instead convinced to establish an “atheneum,” a cultural institution that included a library, works of art, artifacts, and a mission of promoting history, literature, art and science.

Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art


The Wadsworth Atheneum has five connected buildings:

1:  The Gothic Revival Wadsworth building dates to 1844. it was designed by architects Ithiel Town and Alexander Jackson Davis. Originally, it contained the art gallery, the Connecticut Historical Society, the Young Men’s Institute (which later became the Hartford Public Library), and the Natural History Society. 

2: In the 1860s, the Watkinson Library of Reference was constructed. 

3: Benjamin Wistar Morris designed the Tudor Revival Colt Memorial of 1910 and the Renaissance Revival Morgan Memorial of 1910-15 to supply more space as the fine arts collection expanded. 

4: In 1934, the Avery Memorial opened. It was the earliest museum building in the United States with a modern International Style interior. Over the next few decades, institutions not affiliated with the art museum moved to other locations in Hartford.

5:  In 1969, the late modernist Goodwin building opened. By this time, the entire complex was dedicated solely to the fine arts, as Daniel Wadsworth had originally intended.


"History." Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art. Accessed March 2, 2017.

Zafran, Eric, ed. Renaissance to Rococo: Masterpieces from the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art. Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, in association with New Haven: Yale University Press, 2004.

600 Main Street
Hartford, CT 0
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Wednesday – Friday: 11 am – 5 pm Saturday & Sunday: 10 am – 5 pm First Thursdays: 11 am – 8 pm
  • Art and Art Museums
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This location was created on 2014-07-02 by Kelli Pearson .   It was last updated on 2017-03-02 by Amelia Kennedy .

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