Ailsa Mellon Bruce (1901-1969) born in Pittsburgh, attended Miss Porters school in Farmington, Connecticut, was a philanthropist and patron of the arts.
In 1940, she established the Avalon Foundation, which made grants to colleges and universities, medical schools and hospitals, youth programs and community services, churches, environmental projects, and an array of cultural and arts organizations.
From its creation through the end of 1968, Avalon appropriated more than $67 million, with a significant portion of its giving in support of organizations specifically in the New York area, including a grant for the creation of the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York City.
During his life, Mellon donated millions of dollars to charity, and much of it went to educational and charitable institutions in his native Pittsburgh, but his most famous gift was the money left to construct a building to house vast art collections and to establish the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC.
© Ailsa Mellon Bruce, A.W Mellon Foundation
Ailsa Mellon Bruce would act as her father’s hostess in Washington DC, in (1921-1932) for him as Secretary of the Treasurer, and when he was ambassador to the Court of St. James in England. She married David K.E. Bruce, in 1926, a distinguished diplomat, and they were divorced in 1945. However, after Andrew Mellon passed away his daughter Alisa Mellon Bruce stepped up once again. She was asked to serve as the National Gallery’s president (1939-1945).
In 1946 she designated funds for the Gallery’s purchase of American art and later made possible the acquisition of many Old Masters to compliment her father’s collection, such as Ginevra de’ Benci, the only painting by Leonardo da Vinci that is outside Europe.
Mrs. Mellon-Bruce’s only child, a daughter, Audrey Bruce Currier, and Audrey’s husband, Stephen Currier, died tragically in a plane crash leaving her three young grandchildren orphans in 1967. She began to donate her various personal collections to the Gallery of Art soon after her daughter’s death.
© National Gallery of Art, East Building
Along with her brother Paul, she contributed the large initial gift to finance the East Building, but she did not live to see its groundbreaking. Mrs. Mellon-Bruce’s bequest to the Gallery included an endowment fund and her own exquisite collection of small paintings by the French impressionists.
Sadly, Mrs. Bruce passed away on August 25, 1969 at 68 years old, and she left her foundation to her younger brother, Paul. Shortly after probation of her will, the assets of Paul Mellon’s Old Dominion Foundation was merged together with the Avalon Foundation, which was renamed “The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation” in memory of their father.
For more info:
Andrew Mellon:Inital Founder/ West Building
Gallery of Art, the East Building