By Qingcheng Huang, the OISS 2012 Summer Intern
As part of my internship, I plan to visit a Yale museum every Thursday and write about my experience. I'm a big fan of museums and I always try to visit a city's museums when I travel to a new part of the world. Today I went to the Yale Center for British Art (the BAC), which was founded by Paul Mellon, a wealthy Yale alumnus. Designed by American architect Louis I. Kahn, the BAC "houses the most comprehensive collection of British Art outside the United Kingdom" (according to Wikipedia).
I deliberately avoided taking a map at the information desk so my adventure would be full of surprises. There was a nice view of the entrance courtyard from the second floor.
The exhibition spaces mainly start on the 2nd floor, which is a combination of paintings and sculptures. I observed paintings of battlefields, landscapes, and scenery on this floor. Among the collections I found two identical paintings; one paiting is borrowed from the National Gallery of Art and the other version is owned by Yale. The Yale painting is tinted with more sublime hues, as you can hopefully see on the clouds in the right picture.
I was confused by a contemporary painting that was filled with colorful dots. A staff member showed me the way to the Reference Library and Photograph Archive. The staff there helped me to find a book about the painter, Ian Stephenson.
I think the BAC is a great place for writing an essay about art history. Also the librarians and staff are really nice! I asked a lady at the information desk if I could take pictures and she said, "It's OK without a flash." When I told her my camera made a sound she said, "That's fine. Unless it sounds like a bomb!"
It seems that British people are very fond of hunting. A lot of the collections focused on hunters, hounds and horses.
I particularly liked a sculpture of Queen Elizabeth riding sidesaddle on a horseback. The motion captured by the artist is lively and it feels as if the horse will start trotting away at any moment!
The 3rd floor was closed for a new installation.
The 4th floor was definitely my favorite part. There are more delicate details in these paintings: the skin tone, the eye, the jewelry, and the wrinkles on the clothes. They are so vivid, like they are breathing in their own painted world. I began to wonder if the collections in this museum come alive and communicate with each other after the sun falls.
There were many groups of young students touring the museum. Often I saw students sitting and listening to an excited teacher who was trying to inspire them to discuss their feelings about a particular painting. I also observed a kid sitting in front of a huge landscape painting, trying to copy the lines on his own sheet of paper. I wanted to take her picture, but I didn't want to disturb her.
I spent more than two hours in the BAC art gallery. I did start to feel sad that I didn't know more about the paitings and the artists. But it does feel like the spirit of Art flies through the hallways of the British Art Center at Yale. Focused visitors can easily hear that spirit whispering to them as they make their way through the collections. I’d recommend the BAC as a "must-go" place during your stay in Yale, and if you're here for a while, it is worthy of frequent visits.
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