Biographical Memoirs: Paul Mellon

By Prown, Jules David | Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, September 2007 | Go to article overview

Biographical Memoirs: Paul Mellon


Prown, Jules David, Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society


11 JUNE 1907 * 1 FEBRUARY 1999

PAUL MELLON, who died on 1 February 1999, devoted himself and his wealth to the support of excellence. While doing so, he personally excelled in many realms, including collecting works of art and building museums to house them; breeding, racing, and riding horses; and, above all, philanthropy. Blessed with inherited wealth, a strong constitution (he was a champion trail rider into his seventies), and an equable demeanor, he made the most of a long life. Born 11 June 1907, Paul described his childhood in his highly readable autobiography, Reflections in a Silver Spoon (Morrow, 1992), as less than ideal despite the comforts of life in a well-to-do home: an aloof, distant father, the financier Andrew W. Mellon; strained relations between his parents that led to separation and divorce; and the bleak, drab setting of industrial Pittsburgh. His brighter memories of early years were of summers in rural England, where his English mother, Nora McMullen Mellon, instilled in him a love of horses, horsemanship, and country life.

With appropriate filial piety, Paul's primary philanthropic activities were closely linked to the source of his wealth, Andrew W. Mellon, and to his father's previous charitable undertakings. One of his earliest philanthropic responsibilities, undertaken while still in his twenties, was as a founder, trustee, and eventually chairman of his father's Pittsburghbased A. W. Mellon Educational and Charitable Trust (liquidated in 1980). Later Paul oversaw the consolidation of his own Old Dominion Foundation and the Avalon Foundation of his sister, Ailsa Mellon Bruce, into the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation (1969), of which he was long a trustee.

Paul continued the work of his father in his involvement with the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. Andrew Mellon formally offered the Gallery as an intended gift to the nation in 1936. He donated spectacular paintings, provided funds for the construction of John Russell Pope's splendid classical design, and decreed that the Gallery not bear his name so as not to discourage future support from others. Paul himself later followed that pattern of philanthropy and modesty in creating the Yale Center for British Art in New Haven and the East Building that more than doubled the size of the National Gallery. After Andrew Mellon's death in 1937, the year construction of the National Gallery began, young Paul stepped in and oversaw the project through to successful completion in 1941. That summer he enlisted as a private in the cavalry. After Officer Training School he served two years as a riding instructor at Fort Riley, Kansas, then went overseas with the OSS in England and Europe, rising to the rank of major. On his return in 1945, he became president of the National Gallery and served in that capacity for forty years before becoming an honorary trustee in 1985.

Whatever Paul received from the schools at which he was educated-Choate; Yale; Clare College, Cambridge; St. John's College in Annapolis-was generously repaid by his benefactions. As a student, Paul's primary interests were literary. At Yale, he was inspired (and his Anglophilia reinforced) by such English department luminaries as Chauncey Brewster Tinker and William Lyon Phelps. After graduating from Yale he continued his study at Cambridge, where his love of English outdoor life burgeoned through rowing on the Cam and riding-especially fox hunting. The latter interest precipitated his first steps as a collector, the purchase of books on hunting and racing. This led in 1936 to his first purchase of a painting, George Stubbs's Pumpkin with a Stable Lad, which he always maintained was his favorite English painting in his collection.

Paul's wide-ranging literary interests are manifest in the achievements of the Bollingen Foundation, which he and his first wife, Mary Conover Brown, established in 1945 for the advancement and preservation of learning in the humanities.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Biographical Memoirs: Paul Mellon
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.