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The Muscarelle Museum of Art first opened its doors in 1983, but The College of William & Mary began acquiring art centuries earlier, in 1732, when the Third Earl of Burlington donated to The College a portrait of English physicist Sir Robert Boyle. As the fine arts were beginning to take root in the New World, The College procured works by celebrated colonial and early American portraitists, such as Rembrandt Peale, Charles Bridges and John Wollaston. During the early decades of the 20th century, other genres of painting as well as sculptures and works on paper were introduced into the collection.  Recently, several loans of American and European masterpieces from Thomas Dossett and Associates, the Owens Foundation and The Lauro Collection have given Sir Robert Boyle the pleasure of hanging near works by Titian, Robert Henri and Diego Velázquez.

Oscar Wilde quipped, “It is through art, and through art only, that we can realize our perfection.” The featured selections from the permanent collection comprise a diverse group, spanning five centuries and several cultures. But a common thread connects Titian with Hans Hofmann and the artists representing the countless styles, genres and epochs in between. Each sought to convey the perfect expression of an artistic impulse – what Robert Henri called “the art spirit.”

Originally curated by Becky Shields, Curatorial Fellow 2007-2008.