Arts Patron Paul Mellon Dies

By Butters, Patrick | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), February 3, 1999 | Go to article overview

Arts Patron Paul Mellon Dies


Butters, Patrick, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


Billionaire philanthropist Paul Mellon, the driving force behind the National Gallery of Art, died Monday at his home in Upperville, Va. He was 91.

Easily recognized by his manelike hairstyle, Mr. Mellon gave away more than $600 million through various foundations over several decades. Forbes magazine last year ranked him as the 124th-richest American, with an estimated fortune of $1.4 billion.

"I have often thought of Mr. Mellon as an exemplar of the ideal of the donor - a thoughtful as well as cheerful giver, never a seeker of the limelight, remarkable for his taste and discernment," said William G. Bowen, president of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, named after the late Mr. Mellon's father.

Mr. Mellon and his widow, Rachel Lambert "Bunny" Lloyd, had given 913 works to the National Gallery, which was founded by his father. The gift list includes works by Manet, Renoir, Degas, Picasso and van Gogh.

"Modest and kind, he was one of the greatest philanthropists of our time and a gentleman in every sense," said Earl A. Powell III, the gallery's director.

Mr. Mellon's lasting monument was the design and construction of the National Gallery of Art's East Building. He selected I.M. Pei as its designer. The block-and-glass building with its razor-sharp edges cost $94 million when it opened in 1978 and became an immediate hit.

He also built the Yale Center for British Art in New Haven, Conn., the largest single collection of British art outside the United Kingdom.

Mr. Mellon also helped save Cape Hatteras National Seashore in North Carolina and gave 1,200 acres to Virginia for the creation of Sky Meadows State Park.

He made donations to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond and was trustee there for 40 years. He said he would leave most of his artwork to the National Gallery and the Virginia and Yale museums. …

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