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Student & Alumni Achievements

Student & Alumni Achievements

Yale: Gifted 100 works of African-American Art by YSPH Alumnus

You could say Dr. Robert E. Steele has shared his 50-plus-year devotion to African-American art with Yale 100 times over.

Since 2004, Dr. Steele and his wife, Jean, have given the Yale University Art Gallery 100 works from their collection of African-American art. The 97th, 98th, 99th and 100th gifts — a lithograph by Romare Bearden, a mixed-media piece by Sam Gilliam, and screenprints by Jacob Lawrence and Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence — arrived at the museum’s Department of Prints, Drawing, and Photographs in 2019, augmenting one of Yale’s richest resources for the study of African-American art and culture.

The 100 artworks, donated in installments since 2004, join a rich collection that was founded in 1832 with the 100 or so paintings Yale acquired from Revolutionary-era artist John Trumbull, whose work famously depicts crucial events during the founding of the United States, including “The Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776” and “The Battle of Bunker’s Hill, June 17, 1775.” The Trumbull acquisitions established the art gallery’s collections, which now number more than 200,000 objects in all.

It is my conviction that one cannot fully understand the nature of American art unless one understands the contribution of African-American artists,” said Dr. Steele, a retired professor of clinical psychology now living in Hawaii and a member of the art gallery’s Governing Board since 2004. “Given that the art gallery has its roots in those 100 pieces of Trumbull’s revolutionary art, we thought we’d give 100 pieces to lay the foundation for a greater presence of African-American art on campus.”

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