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The Longest Running Show: Small French Paintings from the Ailsa Mellon Bruce Collection

Eric Denker, senior lecturer, National Gallery of Art. Ailsa Mellon Bruce was the only daughter of Andrew Mellon, the founder of the National Gallery of Art, and a patron of the Gallery since 1941. Through direct donation and various funds she was responsible for the Gallery’s acquisition of many major works, including Ginevra de’ Benci by Leonardo. At her death in 1969 she left 153 paintings, primarily by French artists, to the Gallery. For the 1978 opening of the East Building, selected paintings from the collection were shown as a memorial exhibition under the title Small French Paintings from the Bequest of Ailsa Mellon Bruce. In this lecture celebrating the 40th anniversary of the East Building, presented on August 26, 2018, Eric Denker, senior lecturer at the National Gallery of Art, describes the exhibition—a great favorite among visitors that would continue in various forms for 35 years. The show included jewel-like works by, among others, Corot, Manet, Degas, Boudin, Seurat, and Toulouse-Lautrec.