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Sol LeWitt, Wall Drawing #1131, Whirls and Twirls (Wadsworth), 2004 [cropped], 2004.12.1, photo by Allen Phillips, wadsworth atheneum museum of art_about web header

About the Wadsworth Atheneum

The Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art is the oldest continuously-operating public art museum in the United States, founded in 1842 by arts patron Daniel Wadsworth.

Since opening its doors to the public in 1844, the Wadsworth Atheneum has paved the way for encyclopedic museums across the country, and has a rich legacy of Firsts. It was the first museum in America to purchase works by Caravaggio, Frederic Church, Joseph Cornell, Salvador Dalí, and Joan Miró, and was the first in the country to exhibit major surveys of works by Italian Baroque masters, Surrealists, and Picasso.

Progressing Daniel Wadsworth’s vision, the museum’s collection has grown to hold approximately 50,000 works of art that span 5,000 years. 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 173-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.