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Release Date: May 22, 2007

"Paul Mellon: In His Own Words," A new Documentary by the National Gallery of Art Premieres on WETA-TV and Apple iTunes© in June

Washington, DC—A new hour-long documentary about Paul Mellon will premiere on June 9 at 1 p.m., with a second showing on June 10 at 5 p.m. in the East Building auditorium. Two additional screenings are scheduled at the National Gallery of Art on August 22 and 29 at 12:30 p.m. Paul Mellon: In His Own Words, which also will be available as a free download on Apple iTunes starting June 11, includes rarely seen images and footage from the Gallery and Mellon family archives, and narration composed of his own words, drawn from speeches, interviews, and a variety of his writings. Spanning his lifetime, the documentary delves into his childhood and family life, his experiences as the driving force behind the Gallery and its expansion, his years of collecting art, and his love of horses and horse racing.

"Mr. Mellon's contributions to the cultural life of this country remain unparalleled," said Earl A. Powell III, director, National Gallery of Art. "There can be no better way to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Paul Mellon's birth than to present his life as he himself intended."

The broadcast premiere is slated for June 13 and 16 at 9 p.m. on WETA-TV, Channel 26 in Washington, D.C. It will also air on WCVE-TV, Channel 23 in Richmond, VA and repeater station WHTJ-TV, Channel 41 in Charlottesville, VA July 18 at 10 p.m. and again on July 22 at 3 p.m. Other public television stations will air it in the fall, with times and dates to be determined by the local affiliates.

Paul Mellon: The Film and the Man

Narrated by Joseph Krakora, the National Gallery's executive officer for development and external affairs, Paul Mellon: In His Own Words follows the Gallery's benefactor from his childhood to his ascendance on the world stage as one of America's greatest collectors and philanthropists. The film begins with rare movie images taken from the Mellon archives of young Paul playing with his beloved sister, Ailsa, and also on horseback on the family farm.

When his father, Andrew W. Mellon, died in 1937, Paul Mellon stepped up to the public stage to finish his father's greatest philanthropic project, construction of the National Gallery of Art.

Although still a young man, Paul Mellon sustained his father's visionary leadership and oversaw the construction and opening of the original National Gallery of Art building—now known as the West Building—in March 1941. Time-lapse images witness the construction from an excavated crater to a completed, gleaming structure. Built entirely with Mellon funds and filled with art owned by the Mellon family, the National Gallery was a gift to the nation—one family's direct statement regarding the importance of art in society. Many other donors followed Mellon's lead, giving portions of their collections to America's art gallery. Archival newsreel film presents the dedication ceremony, in which Mellon made his first public speech.

Mellon championed the National Gallery of Art, spending almost six decades as a trustee and acting as vice-president, president, and chairman for 25 of those years. With his sister, Ailsa Mellon Bruce, he donated more than 1,000 works of art and established numerous trusts and endowments that further the study and conservation of art to this day. The Mellons also paid for the construction of the East Building, designed by I.M. Pei, which Paul Mellon described as the one "great work of art" that he commissioned. In the documentary, Pei sketches the proposed design of the building, and is seen on-site, coordinating with the construction company. Even after his retirement from the National Gallery in 1985, Mellon remained involved and generous.

Paul Mellon: Art Collecting

Paul Mellon's marriage to Mary Conover Brown ended in 1946 when she died after a severe asthma attack. Mellon was left to raise their two children, Cathy and Tim.

Later, Mellon married Rachel Lambert Lloyd, better known as Bunny, and together they developed a passion for collecting art. As noted in the film, Paul Mellon once said of collecting, "If I have any rule…it is not to have a painting with too many cows, or too many windmills. Pictures…are more than decorative, they become companions and friends." According to the film, his philosophy of collecting was not to find paintings that would prove to be a good investment, but rather he wanted ones that, "…remind me consciously or unconsciously of some past thought, feeling, moment of pleasure or even of sadness…Like the poetry of Wordsworth, it is 'emotion recollected in tranquility.'"

Paul Mellon: Horses

Paul Mellon's love of horses dated back to his childhood. "I bought my first racehorse in 1933, two years after I came home from Cambridge. My father was quick to say that 'any damn fool knows that one horse can run faster than another.'" Mellon owned one of the greatest racehorses of all time, Mill Reef. Another horse, Sea Hero, won the 1993 Kentucky Derby. The documentary offers dramatic footage of each horse in action, and rare images revealing Mellon's obvious enchantment with the equine racing world. With classic modesty, Mellon once said, "Over the years, I've bred some very good horses, but a hundred years from now, the only place my name will turn up anywhere will be in the studbook, for I was the breeder of Mill Reef."

Film Credits

Director and Producer: Joseph J. Krakora
Producer: Ellen Bryant
Director of Photography and Editor: Tony Black, A.C.E.
Music Composer: Alex Kharlamov
Art Director: Carol Hilliard
Sound Designer: Dennis Jacobsen

General Information

For additional press information please call or send inquiries to:
Department of Communications
National Gallery of Art
2000 South Club Drive
Landover, MD 20785
phone: (202) 842-6353
e-mail: [email protected]
Anabeth Guthrie
Chief of Communications
(202) 842-6804
[email protected]

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