Skip to Main Content
Select media for this component

Mellon: A Life

David Cannadine, director and professor, Institute of Historical Research, University of London. David Cannadine launched the U.S. book tour for his landmark publication, Mellon: An American Life- the first commissioned biography of the great American industrialist and founding benefactor of the National Gallery of Art, Andrew W. Mellon- on October 8, 2006, at the National Gallery of Art. Mellon was born in Pittsburgh in 1855 and over time established himself as preeminent in four different fields: business, politics, art collecting, and philanthropy. He died in 1937. In this lecture, Cannadine describes Mellon's life and work before creating the Gallery as a gift to the nation- "from the smokestacks of Pittsburgh to the matchless, stripped neoclassical [West] Building." In explaining the magnitude and range of Mellon's contribution to American history, Cannadine starts with his business career as banker and creator of iconic American companies, and his political career as Secretary of the Treasury (1921-1932) and U.S. Ambassador to Great Britain (1932-1933). Cannadine finished his tour with a second lecture at the Gallery on December 9, 2006. This second lecture, titled Andrew W. Mellon: Collecting for the Nation, focused on Mellon's art collecting and philanthropy, and on the Gallery as the culminating and most enduring endeavor of his life.