The National Gallery of Art Library was founded in 1941, the year the Gallery opened to the public. Beginning with a small collection of books, the library undertook to support the curatorial and research needs of the Gallery’s staff and occasional visiting scholars. Since that time, it has grown steadily, augmented by generous gifts from a number of the Gallery’s principal benefactors: Andrew W. Mellon, Samuel H. Kress, Joseph E. Widener, Chester Dale, David K. E. Bruce, Lessing J. Rosenwald, and Paul Mellon.
In 1979, with the move to a seven-story facility in the Gallery’s new East Building and the establishment of the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts (CASVA), the library broadened its purpose and the scope of its collection. Its goal has been to become a major national art research center, serving the Gallery’s curatorial, educational, and conservation staff, CASVA members, interns, visiting scholars, and researchers in the Washington art community.