Mission & History

A Phillips Academy class in the Addison Gallery
View of the Addison Gallery rotunda (Photo by Yoon S. Byun)
Photos: Yoon S. Byun

About the Addison

The Addison Gallery’s collection of American art is one of the most comprehensive in the world, including more than 25,000 objects spanning the 18th century to the present. In a typical year, the Addison presents approximately twelve shows, including both permanent collection installations and major traveling exhibitions, carefully balanced to represent a wide range of art, across time and media. The Addison has also organized numerous touring exhibitions, including shows such as Alison Elizabeth Taylor: The Sum of It, and Mark Tobey: Threading Light, as well as retrospectives dedicated to artists such as John Marin, Sheila Hicks, William Wegman, Trisha Brown, Mel Kendrick, Carroll Dunham, Wendy Ewald, Terry Winters, and Richard Stanciewicz.

The Addison is committed to serving the public through free admission and an education outreach program that reaches diverse audiences, including teachers, students from pre-kindergarten through grade 12, and adults. All Addison education programs are offered free of charge. The Addison’s Museum Learning Center offers a flexible classroom and exhibition space that makes the entire collection accessible for programs tailored to the specific interests of individual groups. In addition to classes in art and art history, the Addison’s collection lends itself to use by history, language, math, and science classes.

History of the Addison

Thomas Cochran created the Addison Gallery of American Art at Phillips Academy in 1931 as the most extraordinary of his many gifts to the school. Guided by Cochran’s goal “to enrich permanently the lives of the students,” the Addison’s programs demonstrate a central concern for education. The museum is a teaching resource for Phillips Academy students and faculty as well as an art center for the greater Boston area and the nation at large.

By the Terms of Trust under which the Addison Gallery was founded, the museum’s collection is limited to works of art or craftsmanship produced by native-born or naturalized citizens of the United States, with the following exceptions: photographs and books by other than native-born or naturalized citizens; portraits or busts of Americans and portrayals of American scenes or vessels by artists of foreign birth produced not later than 1800; pieces of pottery or glassware of whatever origin or date decorated with American scenes; and scale models of famous ships connected with the history of the United States.

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Phillips Academy alumnus, trustee, and benefactor Thomas Cochran (1871–1936, PA 1890) donates 50 American paintings to Phillips Academy in honor of the school’s 150th Anniversary and calls for the establishment of an art museum at the school.

Ground is broken for the museum building designed by architect Charles A. Platt (1861–1933).

Charles H. Sawyer (1906–2005, PA 1924) is appointed first director of the Addison. He leaves in 1940 to assume the directorship of the Worcester Art Museum.

The Addison Gallery of American Art, named for Cochran’s late friend Keturah Addison Cobb, opens to the public in May. The core collection of approximately 500 works includes paintings by Winslow Homer, Arthur B. Davies, George Bellows, and Thomas Eakins.

The museum’s first exhibition showcases late Addison art committee member Lizzie P. Bliss’s (1864–1931) collection of cutting edge modern American and French art. Her bequest to the Addison includes paintings by Walt Kuhn and Maurice Prendergast.

Studio art classes for Phillips Academy students commence in the basement of the Addison; Bartlett H. Hayes Jr. (1904–1988, PA 1922) is hired as an art instructor.

The Addison purchases four pictures by Margaret Bourke-White, the first photographs to enter the museum’s collection.

Famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright lectures to the Phillips Academy community at the Addison Gallery on October 23.

The Addison assembles the first ever John Sloan retrospective exhibition and publishes the accompanying catalogue.

Bartlett H. Hayes, Jr. is appointed director of the Addison and chairman of Phillips Academy’s art department. He leaves in 1969 to become director of the American Academy in Rome.

The museum acquires Alexander Calder’s Horizontal Spines, 1942, and Washington Allston’s Italian Landscape, c. 1805.

Miss Anne P. Peabody, registrar at the Addison, donates Josef Albers’s Bent Black (A), 1940 to the museum through Hayes’ “Art Begins at Home: The Addison Gallery Gift Plan” project.

Child Hassam’s Early Morning on the Avenue in May 1917 arrives at the Addison, followed by Winslow Homer’s Kissing the Moon, 1904, two years later, both bequests of Candace C. Stimson.

Charles Sheeler serves as the Addison Gallery’s first artist-in-residence.

Bartlett Hayes mounts Seeing the Unseeable, a retrospective exhibition of work by Hans Hoffman. Search for the Real and Other Essays, the first anthology of essays composed by an Abstract Expressionist artist, is published.

Jackson Pollock, Phosphorescence, 1947

Peggy Guggenheim donates Jackson Pollock’s Abstract Expressionist canvas Phosphorescence, 1947.

Georgia O’Keeffe donates twenty-two volumes of Alfred Stieglitz’s magazine Camera Work.

The Addison mounts the first museum exhibition of selected works belonging to art collector William H. Lane.

In celebration of the Addison’s 25th anniversary, several prominent works enter the collection, including Frederick Remington’s Moonlight—Wolf, c. 1909, John F. Peto’s Office Board for Smith Brothers Coal Company, 1879, and Freight Cars, Gloucester, 1928, by Edward Hopper.

George Inness’s The Monk, 1873 is given by Stephen C. Clark in honor of the 25th Anniversary.

William and Saundra Lane donate Patrick Bruce’s Peinture/Nature morte, c. 1924, Franz Kline’s Abstract, 1948, and Hyman Bloom’s Cadaver No. 1, c. 1952.

Hayes appoints Christopher C. Cook (1932–2021) to the position of assistant director.

Cook curates Feelies: The Nature of Things Perceived Through Touch, one of many interactive exhibitions that encourages a greater range of sensory experience.

Chris Cook begins his 20-year tenure as director of the Addison. In 1989, he steps down as Director to teach full-time at Phillips Academy.

The exhibition The Black Photographer 1908–1920 is organized by the Addison.

The Addison’s 50th Anniversary celebration begins on May 8. Related activities include film screenings, live music, workshops, and seminars. The exhibition Frank Stella: From Start to Finish, showcases Stella’s (PA 1954) artistic process and draws national attention.

The Edwin J. Beinecke Trust donates Eadweard Muybridge’s epic 11-volume photographic series Animal Locomotion, 1872–1887.

Artist Jock Reynolds (b. 1947, PA 1965) becomes the Mary Stripp & R. Crosby Kemper Director of the Addison Gallery. He leaves the Addison in 1998 to become the Henry J. Heinz II Director of the Yale University Art Gallery.

The Addison Art Drive is launched to add 100 modern and contemporary works to the collection. 113 works are acquired, among them Ellsworth Kelly’s Untitled (Green, Red-Orange), 1974, Jasper Johns’s Untitled (Target), 1958, Maud Morgan’s Gyre #3, 1947, and Martin Puryear’s 1981 sculpture Untitled.

To preserve the Addison’s legacy, the museum building is retrofitted with a state-of-the-art climate control system.

Photographer Robert Frank serves as one of six artists-in-residence. The exhibition Robert Frank—The Americans showcases the purchase of the photographer’s landmark 84-image series for the permanent collection.

The exhibition Addison Gallery of American Art: 65 Years celebrates the museum’s anniversary. An eponymous catalogue of the collection is published.

David Ireland, artist-in-residence, designs the Abbot Hall artist apartment in conjunction with architect Henry Moss and J.F. Sirois Architectural Woodworking.

Adam D. Weinberg (b. 1959) becomes the fifth director of the Addison. In 2003 he leaves to become the Alice Pratt Brown Director of the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York.

The Addison launches its first website.

Visiting artist Fred Wilson guides visitors through the exhibition Fred Wilson: Objects and Installations, 1979–2000.

Brian T. Allen (b. 1956) becomes the Mary Stripp & R. Crosby Kemper Director of the Addison. He leaves at the end of 2013 to become Director of the Museum and Vice President of the New-York Historical Society.

The Addison’s entire permanent collection becomes browsable online through accessaddison.andover.edu.

The exhibition Portraits of a People is dedicated to the memory of Charles Beard (1943–2004, PA 1962), member of the Phillips Academy Board of Trustees, and the Addison’s Board of Governors.

The 75th Anniversary celebration begins with a series of exhibitions including In Focus: 75 Years of Collecting American Photography and Coming of Age: American Art, 1850s–1950s, that highlight permanent collection masterworks from all media.

The next seventy-five years begin with the major retrospective exhibition William Wegman: Funney/Strange.

The Addison Gallery closes for a two-year renovation and expansion project. Designed by Centerbrook Architects and Planners, the project restores the original building and adds the new Sidney R. Knafel Wing, providing improved collection storage facilities and housing the Museum Learning Center that allows increased access to collections and programs.

While the Addison celebrates the 80th anniversary of its founding, the museum installs a new glass roof, which overlays the old to preserve the Addison Gallery’s historic, classical revival building, maintaining both the essential character of the building’s exterior appearance and the natural light that fills the second floor galleries.

Judith F. Dolkart (b. 1970) is appointed the Mary Stripp & R. Crosby Kemper Director of the Addison. At the end of 2019, she leaves to become​ Deputy Director for Art, Education and Programs at the Detroit Institute of Arts.​

The Addison celebrates its 90th anniversary with the exhibition Learning to Look: The Addison at 90, as well as a podcast about the collection and an on-campus celebration for the public and Phillips Academy communities.

Allison Kemmerer (b. 1964), a curator at the Addison since 1992, is appointed the Mary Stripp & R. Crosby Kemper Director.