Alfred Pope: An Evolution of Ingenuity

December 8, 2022 – June 25, 2023

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About the Exhibition
Artists & Artworks
Exhibition Catalogue

About the Exhibition

Alfred Pope: An Evolution of Ingenuity illuminates a long-overlooked figure in the history of Hill-Stead and of American art collecting. Through this exhibition and accompanying catalog, we present Alfred Atmore Pope (1842–1913) as a bold and leading collector of European modernism and position him rightfully among his peers. Further, the endeavors position Pope as a multifaceted figure and elucidate his devoted and generous service to others, indelibly influencing his only child, Theodate Pope Riddle (1867–1946), in her pioneering life of creative and philanthropic work.

The research for this exhibition identified artworks previously unknown to Hill-Stead, such as Alfred Sisley’s La Serpentine à Londres, and revealed significant archival information about those already documented. In particular, we focused on the rapidly growing body of evidence about the ways in which Theodate’s previously unknown activities impacted our understanding of her father’s original, and by extension, Hill-Stead’s current collection. These exciting findings present a more comprehensive and nuanced picture to explore and interpret Pope as a collector.

During his active collecting years (1889–1907), Pope acquired over 40 important works of art and thoughtfully pruned his collection through sales and exchanges, retaining only those works that elicited a profound emotional response. Since Theodate, too, sold several paintings, in order to finance her own projects, only a small fraction of the original Pope collection remains intact today. Arguably, the finest examples of Pope’s turn-of-the-century connoisseurship still grace the rooms at Hill-Stead.

Alfred Pope: An Evolution of Ingenuity also examines and challenges long-held beliefs about his collecting strategies, practices, and motivations. Pope, who hailed from modest means and had no formal background in the arts, has long been revered as self-taught and ruggedly independent in the building and refining aspects of collecting. It was believed that he acted without relying on an advisor in any official capacity. American artists Mary Cassatt and James McNeill Whistler were both close friends and represented in Pope’s collection, and both tried to exert influence. To date, scholarship has shown that Cassatt indeed did.

Together, the show and catalog offer the first-ever comprehensive study and presentation on Alfred Pope, complete with a biography and a holistic assessment of his collecting pursuits and accomplishments. Through examination of his correspondence, together with consideration of the entirety of his collection, both the works in this exhibition that were divested for myriad reasons and those that were retained and now comprise the museum’s permanent collection, we elucidate an unprecedented understanding of this important historic figure.

This project was launched in autumn 2020 with preliminary research that yielded fascinating insights into Alfred, Theodate, and her decisions after his death to sell his art. Ultimately, Theodate single-handedly shaped Hill-Stead and distorted Alfred’s legacy. We are proud to share these story-altering discoveries and finally celebrate both with greater understanding and knowledge.

This exhibition is made possible by the generous support of our lead sponsor the Maximilian E. & Marion O. Hoffman Foundation Inc., the Edward C. and Ann T. Roberts Foundation, and Centerbrook Architects & Planners.

The exhibition catalogue has been published with generous support from the Maximilian E. & Marion O. Hoffman Foundation, Inc., with additional support from the McPhee Foundation and the Edward C. and Ann T. Roberts Foundation.

Artists & Artworks in Alfred Pope’s Collection

Browse the artwork featured in the show by clicking on each artist’s page.

About the Exhibition Catalogue

Alfred Pope: An Evolution of Ingenuity is the first major publication created in conjunction with Hill-Stead Museum’s new temporary loan exhibition program. The catalogue provides a comprehensive overview of Alfred Atmore Pope (1842–1913), the first character in Hill-Stead’s story. The catalogue presents a nuanced and detailed picture of the man and reunites his pioneering collection of Impressionist and fine art, built between 1888 and 1907. Essays by senior curator Melanie Bourbeau and independent historian George R. Trumbull IV offer the first biographical sketch of this important, overlooked figure, and critically examine his contributions to American and fine art collecting history. Bourbeau delves into various aspects of Alfred’s life and character, such as his business acumen, philanthropic passions, and lifelong love for adventure and learning. Her text portrays a man of deeply generous spirit and devotion of service to others. Trumbull’s piece explores how Alfred’s only daughter, Theodate Pope Riddle (1867–1946), took up his admirable mantle and devoted herself wholeheartedly to creativity and serving those around her, for the betterment of all. Additionally, a short essay by Ana Alvarez de Rosenzweig interprets exciting new research findings from the years-long endeavor to reconstruct Alfred’s fine art collection. A foreword by Hill-Stead’s executive director, Dr. Anna Swinbourne, elucidates the genesis and impact of the project and rounds out the volume.

Drawing on the vast documentation of Hill-Stead’s archives, as well as primary source material culled from sources around the globe, including archives and correspondence of private collectors, galleries, and public institutions, the book features a groundbreaking biography and reconstituted art collection, illustrated in full-color, of this virtually unknown historic figure.

If you are interested in purchasing the exhibition catalogue you can stop by the Museum Shop or contact Elena Hall ( or by phone at 860-677-4787 ex.112).


Entry to the exhibition is included in the general admission ticket to the historic house. Purchase tickets in the Museum Shop.

Members  | FREE
 | $18
AAA & Seniors (62+) | $16
Students | $12
Children 6-12 | $10
Children under 6 | FREE

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RADICAL SPIRITS: Tarot and Automatism in the Works of Hilma’s Ghost

June 25 to November 1, 2022

Hilma’s Ghost/Carrie Secrist Gallery

Seeking freedom within oppressive societies, women throughout history have gravitated toward alternative creative and spiritual practices. One such practice is mediumship or communication with the spirit world through a human intermediary. There have been mediums among artists, and since most mediums are women, the history of mediumship in art dovetails neatly with stories of overlooked women artists. Hilma af Klint (1862–1944) is one such figure. A Swedish artist and mystic, she was virtually unknown until 2018, when a revelatory exhibition of her work at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York secured her a place in art history alongside male counterparts such as Vasily Kandinsky and Piet Mondrian. Af Klint was inspired to create The Ten Largest—a group of ten massive abstract paintings created in 1907—through a series of séances she held with four other women who shared her beliefs. Known as The Five, they contacted spiritual beings they called The High Ones, who instructed af Klint in her groundbreaking work.

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A Perfect Perch: The Architect’s Chair

An exhibition focusing on the art of chair design!

On view April 22 – May 22, 2022

Photos: Derek Hayn/Centerbrook


Hill-Stead embodies a passion for all manner of design—architecture, interior appointments, artistic vision painted on a canvas or etched into a plate and transferred to paper, horticultural…the list goes on. At design’s most basic level, Hill-Stead is a microcosm for life.

On the occasion of its 75th birthday, Hill-Stead takes this opportune moment in its history to reflect on the past as well as looking ahead to the future. We have partnered with Centerbrook Architects and Planners, the firm that designed our award-winning renovation and state-of-the-art new galleries, to present A Perfect Perch: The Architect’s Chair. The exhibition focuses on an item that is critical to our daily lives: the chair.

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Through the Tulle – A Costume Exhibition

November 27 through January 10

Photo Credit: Thomas Giroir

Tour the museum filled with over 20 sparkling pieces from the Ballet Theatre Company’s Through the Tulle costume exhibition

Throughout Ballet Theatre Company’s 22 years, the company’s full-length classical ballet productions and intimate contemporary performances have not only been recognized for the quality of dancing and choreography, but also for their incredibly detailed costume designs. To pay tribute to the artists who have created BTC’s impressive collection of costumes, and to feature this crucial component of ballet production that is too often left out of the spotlight, Ballet Theatre Company is presenting a touring costume exhibition, Through the Tulle, in museums throughout New England. The presentation provides a rare opportunity to learn about costume creation under the direction of seamstress Tracy Dorman and examine some of BTC’s most valued costumes up-close.

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Diamonds in the Rough: Golfing at Hill-Stead

June 17 – November 4, 2018

Explore the game of golf as it was played at the turn of the 20th century and enjoyed by the Pope family. View vintage golf equipment, artifacts, clothing and art on loan from the United States Golf Association Museum, Connecticut Historical Society, Fairfield Museum & History Center and a private collector. An audio component will present a first-person account of golf through the eyes of Alfred Pope, drawn from archival documents. Outdoors, view a recreation of a period tee.



From Page to Stage: Broadway Costumes from the Goodspeed Musicals Collection

September 21, 2017 – January 1, 2018

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This special exhibition of Broadway costumes throughout the historic house is on view from September 21 through January 1, 2018. It honors the Pope Family’s enjoyment of literature, poetry and live performances, particularly theater and opera.

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Boundless: Altered Books in Contemporary Art

June 16 – September 4, 2017

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Boundless presents contemporary art inside Hill-Stead’s period rooms for the first time

In celebration of the Sunken Garden Poetry Festival’s 25th Anniversary, the historic Libraries will be transformed into a contemporary sculpture gallery to showcase Boundless: Altered Books in Contemporary Art, guest-curated by Carole Kunstadt, a graduate of the Hartford Art School. Installed among the many rare first editions and early volumes in the Pope family’s personal library, it is an exhibition of altered books by three contemporary artists: Carole P. Kunstadt, Chris Perry and Erin Walrath.

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