Director’s Message – March 20, 2023

Dear Friends,

I took this photograph at the Art of Shearing event last year. I couldn’t pull myself away from these two lambies.

Little yin and little yang, only a few days old and in the center of our sheepapalooza – 1,600 visitors, 50+ mama-sheep and a handful of their babies, plus one man masterfully giving them haircuts – these two find and fix on one another, as though nothing else existed in the universe. Marvelous.

Then and now, they make me think of the power of true connection. Finding and nurturing it can enable us to experience worlds so far and delightfully beyond our everyday existence.

A truly unique aspect of Hill-Stead is the countless ways we can offer visitors an awe-inspiring and transporting connection. Inside the house, one can realize that the Monet seascape at Antibes is really a series of horizontal stripes. Or outside, on the trails, one can feel that delicious well-being that comes when being full of fresh air. Or, in the space between, the house itself tells the story of its designer, Theodate. Or, in our cherished new gallery, one can delight in the discovery of her long-overlooked father and his unique combination of hard work, generosity, success, selflessness, and … modesty.

View de Cap d'Antibes, Claude Monet

Claude Monet, View of Cap d’Antibes,1888

We who work here adore the limitless possibilities of experiences Hill-Stead can offer. And we are thrilled, on this first day of spring, to share a new line-up of upcoming events!

This Sunday the 26th, the Art of Shearing is baaaaaack, celebrating all things wool in what promises to be fine springlike weather. Next week, on Thursday 30th, we’ll host a behind-the-scene discussion of the making of the Alfred Pope exhibition. Beginning April 22nd, the second phase of this show will be unveiled in the historic house, giving guests the once-in-lifetime chance to see the interiors as it looked when Theodate’s parents lived there. Then, at the end of April, the popular Star of the Bar cocktail competition returns on Friday, April 28th, as the kick-off event for our Belle Epoque-themed gala on May 20th. Lastly, we will wish Happy Birthday to Hill-Stead on Sunday, April 30th with a new event, intended for children and their caregivers, to share Theodate’s inspiring story in unforgettable fashion: a special tour of the house and a proper English tea party.

A bit of something for everyone.

Hoping to see you again soon,


Dr. Anna Swinbourne
Executive Director & CEO

Hill-Stead Receives “We’re Pulling for You” Grant from SBM Charitable Foundation

Grant Affords East of the River Students Free Educational Opportunities

FARMINGTON, CT—November 30, 2022 

The SBM Charitable Foundation (SBMCF) has awarded Hill Stead a “We’re Pulling for You” grant for $34,466.94 in support of the “Art, Poetry, and History at Hill-Stead Museum” program for area students in East Hartford, Vernon, and Manchester. This program, in partnership with the SBM Charitable Foundation, has provided valuable Fine Arts, Language Arts, and World Languages themed educational programs for thousands of underserved students since 2006.

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Director’s Message – December 26, 2022

Dear Friends,

Before moving on to resolutions, I like to savor the year coming quickly to a close. I play a little game and challenge myself to name my three favorite moments.

For 2022 it isn’t easy because there has been lots to love. There is the news from our partners Clatter Ridge Farm (their animals and know-how plus our land and barns honor Hill-Stead’s past as a working farm) that together we are helping the endangered monarch butterflies; or, finally attributing the mystery painting in the guest room to a fellow hidden gem, Henri Martin; or, removing the cataracts to (again finally) see the admirable and generous person behind our great founder, her equally impressive father Alfred. But what about that summertime Saturday ping of a clandestine video, a young man proposing marriage in the Sunken Garden? I must include that!

Perhaps I’ll let myself choose four, it is a special birthday year after all.

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Director’s Message – December 19, 2022

Dear Friends,

It is so easy to overlook what is right under our nose. For seventy-five years at Hill-Stead, we have admired the paintings on the walls without considering the bigger picture of how they got there. Realizing we ought to, we began to look more closely, and what we found is extraordinary.

The artwork now at the museum is only a fraction—a tip of the iceberg—of what was once there. Self-taught and daring as a collector, Theodate’s father Alfred bought the art of his contemporaries, the Impressionists, who were then little-known in this country. He acquired over forty Impressionist masterpieces that we have traced to their current owners around the globe: a third Monet haystack; a second Degas jockeys; landscapes by Pissarro and Sisley; even a stunning Renoir painting of a girl and her cat. More astonishing still is how many left the museum not by his choice, but rather his daughter’s, and long after his death, likely to fund her own creative endeavors, including the school she founded to honor him, Avon Old Farms. Continue reading

Hill-Stead Museum Announces New Exhibition

Alfred Pope: An Evolution of Ingenuity

Dates: December 8, 2022 – May 30, 2023

Hill-Stead Museum
35 Mountain Road, Farmington, CT 06032.

Hill-Stead Museum is pleased to announce Alfred Pope: An Evolution of Ingenuity, an exhibition that presents the little-known and under-appreciated father of Hill-Stead’s founder, Theodate Pope Riddle. On view will be a group of paintings and drawings he once owned, which are now scattered around the world, as well as selected works on paper, objects, and ephemera from Hill-Stead’s collection and archives that illuminate this fascinating, generous individual. The exhibition opening will be on December 8, 2022, from 6-8 pm. Continue reading

Hill-Stead Museum Announces the First Recipient of Theodate Pope Riddle Women in Architecture and Design Award

Hill-Stead Museum is pleased to announce Deborah Berke, Founding Partner of Deborah Berke Partners and Dean and J.M. Hoppin Professor of Architecture at the Yale School of Architecture, as the recipient of the inaugural Theodate Pope Riddle Women in Architecture and Design Award. The award recognizes women who have made significant contributions to both design excellence and the advancement of women in the fields of architecture and design. Continue reading

Director’s Message – November 4, 2022

Dear Friends,

109 years ago, in November 1913, the English suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst arrived in Hartford to give her “Freedom or Death” speech. Our founder Theodate picked her up at the train station and in typical take-action fashion drove her to Hill-Stead for a welcoming lunch. Later that day, Theodate also publicly pledged $100 for Pankhurst’s cause when the hat was passed in the theater post-speech. All these years later, Theodate has made it easy to honor her legacy: all we need to do is get ourselves to the polls on Tuesday, November 8th, and exercise our right to vote!

Emmeline Pankhurst (center) in Hartford, Connecticut, 1913. Library of Congress.

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Hill-Stead Receives Award from the Frankenthaler Climate Initiative

Hill-Stead Museum is honored to have been selected to receive an award from the Frankenthaler Climate Initiative, a grant-making program established by the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation in collaboration with Environment & Culture Partners and RMI to catalyze climate change action in the visual arts. Funds will be used to complete the replacement of a failed HVAC chiller, installed in 2001, and the associated upgrading of pumps and temperature and humidity controls for the 1901 historic house. Funds will also be used to maximize energy savings measures, such as retrofitting all existing parking lot and exterior property lights with new LED lamps, featuring “dusk to dawn” operation. This project will help us reduce our carbon footprint. Additionally, operational costs will dramatically decrease. For instance, the energy-efficient new chiller is expected to operate at 70% of the cost of the old 2001 model, resulting in approximately 30% savings in energy costs.

Alfred Pope: An Evolution of Ingenuity

December 8, 2022 – June 25, 2023

Learn more

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

Not a Member?  JOIN NOW

Director’s Message – August 3, 2022

Dear Friends,

“Good news department” was the title of a recent message from our partners at Clatter Ridge Farm, whose sheep live at Hill-Stead. I found their tidings not just good, but glorious: we don’t mow but leave the grooming of our pastures to the sheep, and since those sheep don’t eat milkweed, we have created an environment that’s extra friendly to the monarch butterfly, just recently added to the endangered species list.

I must admit that I was exceptionally proud of Hill-Stead! Yet another way that we’re honoring our nature-loving and preservationist founder, Theodate.

A monarch butterfly at Hill-Stead & STEAM Academy 4th graders at our Hilma’s Ghost exhibit.

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