New Britain Museum of American Art
All American Art. Across the nation, only a handful of museums have been founded to be devoted exclusively to American art. The New Britain Museum of American Art (NBMAA) is not only the FIRST of these but also one of the few with such an encyclopedic range of important artists and works.
Brief History. The NBMAA takes as its founding date 1903, when industrialist John Butler Talcott established its first acquisition fund. His intent was to found a public art collection for the enjoyment and education of the public, especially the immigrant workers who came to work in the many factories that made New Britain the “Hardware Capital of the World.” Today the NBMAA is renowned for its preeminent collection spanning three centuries of the nation’s artistic output, with its masterpieces in demand worldwide.
In 1935, Grace Judd Landers bequeathed her turn-of-the-century stone mansion to serve as a permanent home for the collection. Since opening its doors on July 1, 1937 the collection has grown from 26 paintings to over 11,000 oils, watercolors, drawings, graphics, sculpture, and New Media.
In 2006, the Museum opened a new, Ann Beha-designed, 53,000 square-foot state-of-the-art facility. Critics hailed it as “a full-size, transparent temple of art, mixing New York ambience with Yankee ingenuity and all-American beauty.” It features an enlarged shop, a café, auditorium, and 15 new galleries that showcase the permanent collection and upwards of 20 special exhibitions per year. In addition, a renovated Landers House offers an interactive multidisciplinary learning gallery for children and families and an Art Studio for all ages. The new facility now provides an environment equal in caliber and quality to the NBMAA’s permanent collection.
Preeminent Collection. Among the highlights of the collection is a fine selection of colonial and federal portraits, with excellent examples of John Smibert, John Trumbull, Mather Brown, John Singleton Copley, Charles Willson Peale, Sarah Peale, Gilbert Stuart, and Ralph Earl. Another strength is the Hudson River School with landscapes by Thomas Cole, Thomas Doughty, Asher B. Durand, Fitz Hugh Lane, Martin Johnson Heade, John Kensett, Albert Bierstadt, and Frederick Church.
Nineteenth-century still life, American genre painting and sculpture, and post-Civil War figural painting and sculpture are represented in the collection with works by Winslow Homer, Thomas Eakins, Mary Cassatt, and John Singer Sargent, among others. Of particular note is the Museum’s American Impressionist collection the highlight of which is Childe Hassam’s “Le Jour du Grand Prix.”
The 20th and 21st centuries are well represented from The Eight and Early Modernists up to the present day. Not to be missed: Thomas Hart Benton’s mural series “The Arts of Life in America,” “The Cycle of Terror and Tragedy, September 11, 2001” by Graydon Parrish,” Lisa Hoke’s installation of 20,000 cups, and Dale Chihuly’s spectacular chandelier “Blue and Beyond Blue.”
Also setting NBMAA apart is the nation’s first public collection of American illustration. This diverse holding of more than 2,000 book, magazine and advertising illustrations provides a great visual history of American life from the 19th century to the present.
Where Art Meets Life! The Museum’s education and community outreach programs include docent-led school and adult tours, teacher services, studio classes and vacation programs, Art Happy Hour gallery talks, lectures, symposia, concerts, film, First Friday jazz evenings, quarterly Museum After Dark parties for young professionals, and the annual Juneteenth celebration. With a mission to be one of the most welcoming museums in America, the Museum’s programming provides a variety of approaches to looking at, talking about, and engaging in art, enabling people of all ages and backgrounds to have a stimulating experience at the NBMAA.