A new trove of artwork from the estate of a philanthropic Virginia couple will soon adorn the walls of a Richmond museum.
The estate of Paul Mellon donated 26 works of art to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts after Mellon’s wife, Rachel Mellon, passed away in March, the museum announced recently.
The donation includes paintings by Vincent Van Gogh, Paul Gauguin and Camille Pissarro.
Alex Nyerges, the VMFA director, said the gift is “the closing of a great chapter” of a pair of art-loving philanthropists and longtime supporters of the museum on Boulevard.
“It’s somewhat bittersweet because Paul Mellon did so much for this museum,” he said. “It’s bittersweet in the sense that this is the last piece of their legacy of generosity to the Virginia museum.”
Paul Mellon, of Upperville, Va., was the son of American financier and U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Andrew Mellon. According to a New York Times obituary, Andrew Mellon was also an art lover and collector, and he founded the National Gallery of Art in Washington, which his son later helped lead.
The Mellons gave more than 1,800 works of art to the VMFA in their decades-long affiliation with the museum. Paul Mellon served as a trustee for 46 years, the longest-serving trustee in VMFA history.
Nyerges said the Mellons’ gifts have transformed the museum, especially its British, American and French art sections. A memorial to Rachel Mellon was installed last month at the entrance to the Mellon French Gallery.
Van Gogh’s “Daisies” is already earmarked for an upcoming exhibition called “Working Among Flowers.” The exhibit is slated to begin in March and will feature paintings from Van Gogh, Edouard Manet and others.
The donated pieces, many of which used to hang in Rachel Mellon’s home, will undergo a gentle cleaning and will be framed if needed, Nyerges said. The works are currently in museum storage.
According to an obituary in The Washington Post, Rachel “Bunny” Mellon died March 17 at the age of 103. She was a longtime friend of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and helped redesign the White House Rose Garden, the article said.
Paul Mellon died in 1999 at the age of 91.
The Mellons also donated pieces from their collection to the National Gallery and the Yale Center for British Art, among others.
The VMFA, at 200 N. Boulevard, has more than 33,000 pieces of art in its collection, valued at billions of dollars as a whole. It has between 500 and 600 full- and part-time employees and operates on a $34.9 million annual budget, which includes both the state agency and the museum’s foundation. The museum is open 365 days a year, and general admission is free.
Nygeres said the museum can’t say how much the Mellons’ final gift is worth.
“It would be sizable, to say the least,” he said. “For us, it is about their artistic value, not their monetary value.”