This Day in History… April 13, 1870

Metropolitan Museum of Art

US #1391 – This painting by Edward Hopper is part of the Met’s collection.

On April 13, 1870, the Metropolitan Museum of Art was founded in New York City.

The history of “The Met” dates back to 1866 in Paris, France. At that time, John Jay (grandson of Chief Justice John Jay) and a group of Americans visiting Paris began talking about creating a “national institution and gallery of art” to help educate the American people.

US #1046 – The museum’s founder was the grandson of founding father, John Jay.

Upon returning to the US, Jay, who was president of the Union League Club in New York, worked to gain support from civic leaders, businessmen, artists, art collectors, and philanthropists. Their efforts paid off, and on April 13, 1870, the New York Legislature granted their act of incorporation, “for the purpose of establishing and maintaining in said City a Museum and Library of Art, of encouraging and developing the Study of the Fine Arts, and the application of Art to manufacture and natural life, of advancing the general knowledge of kindred subjects, and to that end of furnishing popular instruction and recreations.”

US #1550 – This painting is also owned by the Met.

Initially, the museum consisted of three private European collections totaling 174 paintings and one Roman stone sarcophagus. These included works by Hals, Van Dyck, Poussin, Tiepolo, and Guardi. American businessman John Taylor Johnson also provided artwork for the museum and served as its first president.

US #4165 – A Louis Comfort Tiffany stained glass at the Met.

The Met first opened to the public on February 20, 1872, at 681 Fifth Avenue. However, its holdings were ever expanding, and this building couldn’t house the entire collection. So in 1873, the museum was moved to the Douglas Mansion at 128 West 14th Street. That would prove to be a temporary location as well, with the museum eventually moving to 1000 Fifth Avenue.

From 1879 to 1895, The Met hosted the Metropolitan Museum of Art Schools to educate people on fine arts. In 1893, another act pertaining to the museum was passed, requiring that the collections “shall be kept open and accessible to the public free of all charge throughout the year.”

Item #UNV108-09 – The right-hand image is owned by the Met.

By the 1900s, the Met was considered one of the greatest art centers in the world. It soon acquired works by Auguste Renoir and was the first public museum to receive the art of Henri Matisse. The Met also went on to own five of the less than 35 known surviving paintings of Johannes Vermeer, and has the largest collection of Egyptian art outside of Cairo. Today, The Met has a collection of 2,500 European paintings and one of the most thorough collections of American paintings, sculptures, and decorative arts. It’s the largest art museum in the county and second-most visited art museum in the world.

Below you’ll find several stamps honoring artists whose work is in the Met’s collections:

Korea #2268 – Rembrandt

Russia #5015 – Manet

US #4748a – Charles Demuth

US #4920 – Thomas Cole

US #3236f – George C. Bingham

US #1207 – Winslow Homer

New Caledonia #779 – Paul Gauguin

Guernsey #115-18 – Renoir

Item #M12145 – Picasso

Click here to visit the Met’s website, where you can see some of their collections and discover more history.

Click here to see what else happened on This Day in History.

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