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Wadsworth Museum Hartford Connecticut

Wadsworth Museum Hartford Connecticut

The Wadsworth museum Hartford Connecticut is America’s oldest art gallery, boasting collections that span 5,000 years of history. Additionally, they were the first museum in America to collect contemporary American art which led to them amassing a world-famous Hudson River School collection.

This gallery showcases modern works within historic buildings renovated impressively in 2015. Alternating exhibitions often explore intersections between old and new art forms.


American society began rapidly expanding in 1840s. At that time, there was an effort to incorporate art and culture into public spaces for all to enjoy. One city that rose to this challenge was Hartford – roughly midway between New York City and Boston’s major cultural centers – namely David Wadsworth who established an atheneum (or art gallery) called David Wadsworth at The Atheneum by designing a castle-like structure as its cornerstone and starting construction almost immediately on it. By its opening day it boasted modest collections including portraits, sculpture and American landscape paintings from its modest collection.

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As the museum expanded, it attracted numerous donors who shared its passion for art. Elizabeth Hart Jarvis Colt made one of the most noteworthy contributions, giving his firearm collection to the Wadsworth. Additionally, other prominent families donated money which allowed the museum to become more than simply an art gallery; eventually it also served as a venue for social functions, dance performances and historical artifact exhibition.

Wadsworth Museum experienced rapid expansion during the early 1900s. Their original collection of paintings and sculpture was greatly increased through acquisition of works by such notable artists as John Trumbull, Thomas Cole and Frederic Church – giving rise to its reputation for housing an impressive 19th-century American art collection.

The Wadsworth is widely recognized for its many firsts. Notably, it was the first museum in America to exhibit modern art by Salvador Dali and Pablo Picasso; moreover, they are one of the foremost collections for Hudson River School art worldwide.

The Museum is continuing its legacy of welcoming all sections of the community into their galleries by implementing programs to achieve this aim, such as offering free general admission to Hartford residents every day the museum is open, educational events such as Second Saturdays and twice monthly Eye on Art Family Tours as well as family-friendly activities like second Saturdays.

Art Collection

Wadsworth museum Hartford Connecticut stands as one of the oldest and most renowned museums in America, boasting an art collection dating back more than five millennia. This impressive showcase encompasses all styles from antiquities, baroque paintings, surrealism, Hudson River School landscapes to modernist masterpieces by artist Serge Lifar as well as American colonial furniture, Samuel Colt firearms and numerous sculptures by African American artists spanning five millennia.

Daniel Wadsworth was an influential patron of American art who established a museum in 1842 with architect Ithiel Town and Alexander Jackson Davis’ design as intended to become an “Atheneum,” or cultural center dedicated to learning and the arts. Wadsworth donated several paintings, marble busts and portrait miniatures along with valuable art works as his initial donation.

Early collections at the museum focused on traditional genres and art forms, including history painting, portraiture, bronze and marble sculpture and portraits by established masters, such as history painters. However, things began to change after Harvard graduate A. Everett “Chick” Austin became director (until 1944). 

Under him the museum expanded its European paintings collection especially those belonging to baroque period and purchased works from living avant-garde artists like Caravaggio, Joan Miro Balthus & Piet Mondrian as part of his first American museum directorship tenure – something only American museum directors had done until then!

This collection includes numerous Impressionist works, most notably Claude Monet’s Garden at Argenteuil which became one of the museum’s signature pieces during his renowned French Impressionism movement era. Additionally, American masterworks by artists George A. Gay and Ellsworth Kelly can also be found among them.

The Wadsworth offers public programs, including gallery talks and lectures, on its website through an events calendar. Admission to the museum is free, while there is also a gift shop on-site.


The Wadsworth museum Hartford Connecticut is one of the best-known art museums in America. Boasting an encyclopedic collection of paintings, sculptures, works on paper and decorative arts as well as wide, grand galleries reminiscent of castle-like structures, it offers wide galleries that give off castle-like vibes. Notable European paintings and sculptures as well as an impressive Hudson River School selection make up its roster of collections.

Wadsworth Museum was established in 1842 and first opened to the public in 1844, after being designed in Gothic Revival style by Ithiel Town and Alexander Jackson Davis. Initially, scenes of American Revolution and portraits dominated its collection until landscape paintings took center stage as its centerpiece. 

Furthermore, Wadsworth Housed both precursors for Hartford Public Library and Connecticut Historical Society as well as forerunners to Athenaeum cultural centers dedicated to history, literature, and art – an unwitting name given that was actually given as it housed them all within one building.

Elizabeth Hart Jarvis Colt made an important gift to the museum in 1905: paintings, decorative arts, and the world-famous Colt firearms she collected were given as well as funds to expand it. Benjamin Wistar Morris designed and constructed between 1910 and 1910 the Tudor Revival Colt Memorial; its dark gray granite facade and marble moldings provide visual continuity between Morgan Memorial and Wadsworth buildings.

Soon thereafter, the museum expanded once again with the Renaissance Revival Morgan Memorial building. J. Pierpont Morgan, an extremely wealthy industrialist and financier who donated his vast Renaissance art collection to the Wadsworth in 1906 as well as funding to construct an adjacent building called “The Morgan Memorial,” designed by Benjamin Wistar Morris and completed in 1910.

Recently, the museum underwent a five-year renovation that resulted in its reopening in 2015 after major restoration works had taken place. These restorations restored the Morgan Memorial building back to its historical grandeur while renewing 32 gallery spaces and 15 public areas.

Renovations included new lighting and improved visitor flow. The redesign of galleries aims to showcase masterpieces better and ensure seamless movement from room to room, such as Matt Paweski of Los Angeles who featured his debut solo museum exhibition during this renovation period.


Wadsworth Museum Hartford Connecticut hosts an array of gallery talks, lectures and family-friendly events throughout the year. Their collections encompass ancient Egyptian bronzes, European Baroque art pieces such as Baroque paintings by Caravaggio or Rodin as well as famous Hudson River School landscape paintings, French Impressionist paintings by Monet, modernist masterpieces plus early American furniture and decorative arts – with all this and more on offer here.

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Since 1842, it is America’s oldest public art museum. The name comes from Daniel Wadsworth, a prominent local philanthropist who donated funds for building and collecting. There are five buildings at the museum; four of these houses collections; Avery Court (American and European art), Morgan Memorial (American art and antiques), Colt Hall (special exhibitions and contemporary art), and Wadsworth Athenaeum are open to visitors.

2015 will mark a landmark event in the museum’s 173-year history, as its extensive renovation project concludes and brings fresh life back into historic structures while adding innovative features that enhance visitor experiences. New galleries will open as well as enhanced interpretive content and interactive technology allowing guests to engage with artworks more closely.

The museum boasts an impressive history of “firsts.” It was the first American institution to begin collecting contemporary American art – leading directly to its world-famous Hudson River School collection – as well as hosting America’s inaugural retrospective of Pablo Picasso, and the first to acquire works by Surrealist artists.

Today, the museum continues to innovate and inspire. Its mission is to be a place where visitors of all ages can discover and enjoy art’s transformative power, serving as the founding member of Connecticut Art Trail (a nationally acclaimed partnership that showcases world-class museums and historic sites across Connecticut).

The museum features a full-service cafe and museum shop offering gifts and souvenirs, serving lunch and dinner and kid friendly cuisine like burgers, sandwiches, fries, chicken tenders and mac n cheese dishes to its menu of delicious bites! Open during regular museum hours with parking available nearby as well as offering shuttle service during certain special events.


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