Honors Student Council Goes to the Yale Center for British Art

The Charger Bulletin

By Kathryn Kuhr – Honor Student Council

On November 30, 2010, many of the honors students took a trip to the Yale Center for British Art: the largest expository of British art outside of England. As soon as you walk through the doors, you realize that the building itself is a masterpiece. Its beautiful structure was designed by internationally acclaimed architect Louis I. Kahn. The magnificent skylights allow natural light to pour in, illuminating the entire gallery without hurting the paintings. Such a design was inspired by the Greek Parthenon.

The building was founded by Paul Mellon, a philanthropist and connoisseur of British art. He provided all of the funding for the center and even donated his own private collection. Mellon’s dream was for the art center to enrich the lives of others, while being appreciated for generations to come. The fourth floor contains a magnificent array of paintings and sculptures; it is surely a feast for the eye. The paintings range in date from about 1697 to 1851. Such artists showcased are William Hogarth, Thomas Gainsborough, Joshua Reynolds, George Stubbs, Joseph Wright of Derby, John Constable, and J. M. W. Turner.

One piece, in particular, was sure to stand out. John Constable, a struggling English painter during the romantic period, painted a landscape titled Hadleigh Castle. Romantic artists of the time painted picturesque landscapes that appealed to the masses. Constable, like Turner, took landscape painting and flipped it on its side; they exposed it for what is truly was. The Hadleigh Castle landscape shows Britain’s rough coastline. Its genuine beauty comes from the implantation of symbolism and artistic elements. The rough texture of the towers and their broken nature was symbolic, during the Romantic Period, for one to reminisce about the past. Without the shepherd dawned in red clothing in the bottom left corner, the piece would fall flat. His presence brings out the richness of the greens and yellows throughout the picture by use of contrast. Deep within the background are multiple ships sailing downstream. This somewhat subtle symbol is actually an autobiographical reference to Constable’s oncoming death.

The Yale Center for British Art contains over 1,900 paintings and 100 sculptures. There is no doubt that there is a style represented for everyone. Everything from Tudor paintings, landscapes, cityscapes, and animal paintings is embodied on the walls of this astounding edifice. No matter what your age, preferred style of painting, or artistic educational background, I guarantee that you will enjoy all that the YCBA has to offer; I strongly urge you to check it out.