The William Benton Museum of Art, The University of Connecticut, has been established for the collection, preservation, research, and interpretation of works of art. The Museum exists for the University of Connecticut academic community, for the citizens of the State of Connecticut, and for the general public to add through its educational and other programs to the greater understanding and appreciation of art.
Approved by the University of Connecticut Board of Trustees in 1975.
The William Benton Museum of Art has had an interesting and colorful past. While it opened officially as an art museum in 1967, its roots go back to the early twentieth century and the days of the Connecticut Agricultural College before it became the University of Connecticut.
The original Museum building was constructed in 1920 and served as The Beanery, the campus's main dining hall until the mid-1940s. The building is a small, elegantly designed Collegiate Gothic structure, with a gracious sculpture garden. It is among the core campus buildings that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Museum collection traces its beginnings to Charles Lewis Beach, College President from 1908-1928, who bequeathed his impressive holdings of American art to the University on his death in 1933, along with a trust fund for future acquisitions. It was President Beach's intent that the collection "instill and cultivate an appreciation of works of art in the student body of the College and in such other persons as may avail themselves of said collection." This original collection included works by Childe Hassam, Henry Ward Ranger, Emil Carlson, Charles H. Davis, Ernest Lawson and Guy Wiggins.
Since then, the Benton has added works by such renowned artists as Mary Cassatt, Thomas Hart Benton, Fairfield Porter, George Bellows, Gustav Klimt, Rembrandt Peale, Georges Braque, Edward Burne-Jones, Maurice Prendergast, and Kiki Smith.
In 1965, Dr. Walter Landauer, an internationally recognized geneticist and professor, gave the University 107 Käthe Kollwitz prints and drawings. In 1966, during the Presidency of Dr. Homer Babbidge, these treasures and the Beach Collection, which by then included works by such well-known artists as Mary Cassatt, George Bellows, and others, found a home at the Museum which was later named in honor of prominent Connecticut Senator and University trustee William Benton. His family generously donated to the Museum some of his sizable collection of Reginald Marsh paintings and works by other important twentieth-century American artists.
The Benton Museum remains true to President Beach's vision by providing the academic community, the citizens of the State of Connecticut and the general public with diverse and widely acclaimed exhibitions, lectures, recitals, and readings. The Museum has an exceptionally fine collection of more than 6,000 works including paintings, drawings, watercolors, prints, photographs, and sculptures.
In 2004 the Benton grew in size with the addition of the Evelyn Simon Gilman Gallery, a sunlight atrium, The Beanery Café, and The Museum Store. The galleries, administrative offices, and members lounge were completely renovated. The Benton has become a university museum of significance, a vital part of the University environment, and an important art venue in the Northeast.