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Sesquicentennial Snapshots: All Things Old and New

Along with Vassar College, the Art Center is celebrating the sesquicentennial anniversary of our founding. In this weekly feature, we will look back on the rich 150-year history of the collection. Today’s post comes from Erin Gallagher, class of 2013  and Art Center student docent.

Unknown Artist, The Apartment of the Art Gallery, Vassar College, c1865-67, Oil on canvas, Gift of Gladys Jane Orcutt Blatter (Wheaton College, class of 1921), 1982.37

Walking into the newly renovated Art Center, it is striking to see the marks of frequent use freshly removed, the walls an untouched white and the plaques bearing a rejuvenated text. Reminders of the past, however, are incorporated into the surrounding design of the new space. The Apartment of the Art Gallery, an oil painting installed during the reopening, provides a connection to the founding history of the gallery. In 1865, when Vassar first opened its doors, the Art Gallery was established as a fundamental part of the college. Originally housed on the third and fourth floor of Main Hall, the gallery was housed under the same roof as the student living quarters. The Apartment of the Art Gallery illustrates the grand, central space architect James Renwick designed.

Capturing a moment of quiet reclusion, the painting shows a young woman sitting alone amongst the works of art, absorbed in her reading. The light cuts horizontally across the floor, accentuating the large space and mirroring the bright curves of the ceiling.  The gold frames of the artworks offer a striking contrast to the dark crimson walls and draw a viewer into the depth of the polished room. The painting serves as a reminder of what the gallery offers: the refuge of art. In 2011, when entering the newly renovated space, it is gratifying to look at The Apartment of the Art Galley and see the foundation from which the surrounding museum grew.

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