Hidden Gem in Hartford: The Wadsworth Atheneum

3 min read

Jorge Espinoza-Gonzalez ’26

Contributing Writer

Any decent art connoisseur has visited the Getty, the Met, and the National Gallery–under domestic terms, of course. But a true art freak has to visit the Wadsworth Atheneum here in Hartford. The castle-inspired museum has an estimated 75,000 square feet of exhibition space spread over three floors, and the museum exhibits some of the most renowned artists, including but not limited to, Picasso, Rivera, Dali, Hunt, Monet, Trumbull, and Eakins.

The Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art has sat on Main Street since 1844, the year it opened its doors to the public. The Wadsworth was initially solely funded by the Wadsworth family, built on the family plot and all. When Daniel Wadsworth opened the museum, 78 paintings, 2 marble busts, a bronze sculpture, and a portrait miniature were exhibited. The Wadsworth also served as the house for developing projects, most notably what would become the Hartford Public Library and Connecticut Historical Society.

If you were to visit the museum tomorrow, chances are that you would be met with the portrait of a notable philanthropist of the Wadsworth, Elizabeth Jarvis Colt. Her portrait is hung right before the entrance to Morgan Great Hall, which resembles the Louvre Great Hall. And, to our finance-obsessed peers, there really isn’t an excuse not to like art. Even J.P. Morgan was an art fanatic and even contributed priceless items to the Wadsworth!

Nowadays, the museum has exhibits on European Art, European Decorative Arts, Costume & Textile, American Art, American Decorative Arts, along with Contemporary Art. Tours are available upon request, and staff are on standby in every exhibit for any questions which may arise.

The Wadsworth operates Thursdays through Sundays, from 12:00-5:00 p.m. General Admission tickets between 12:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. are $15 for adults, $12 for seniors, $5 for college students with a student ID, and free for those 17 or below.

I paid my visit rather out of the blue. A friend was coming into Hartford for a baseball game, and we made plans to grab breakfast with her the next day. I was planning on waiting for the game to finish, which is how I ended up at the Wadsworth. To my surprise, the curator in the lobby was a Trinity alumnus, and we started talking about the school. 

After checking in, I made my way to the Contemporary Art exhibit where I saw the renowned Warhol piece of Jackie Kennedy, yes that one. Although a blur, I remember stumbling into the other exhibits, seeing the Picasso and the Rivera, which are held in a Greek-inspired courtyard with a glass ceiling. The most memorable part of my trip was entering Morgan Great Hall. I suddenly felt I was in the Louvre, with the high walls and intricate glass ceiling. The actual art on the walls seems too good to be true and, thankfully, there were more than enough benches to simply sit and stare at some of the pieces. 

On my way back to campus, I sent every picture I took to my mother and everyone else that I knew had a relative interest in art because, come on, bragging rights for exploring a new museum! Take that Getty fanatics!

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