Paul Mellon (1907-1999) was born in Pittsburgh, the son of Banking and Industrialist, Andrew W. Mellon and Nora McMullen, younger English ex-wife.
Paul and his sister Ailsa (1901-1969) spent their childhoods in their father’s Pittsburgh mansion, interspersed by long summers in the English countryside.
At age 12, Paul Mellon leaves Pittsburgh for Choate School. In 1925, he enters Yale University, where he participated in several prestigious clubs and literary staffs and graduated Yale in 1929.
After he went away to school, Paul wanted a favorite painting from his childhood bedroom. “My father replied, yes, if you have $50,000, then Paul Mellon became irate over that painting incident for years.
While attending Cambridge, Paul Mellon stayed with his father in London during his ambassadorship; they spent time together discussing several different topics and truly discovered each other, and they were actually in total agreement concerning the subjects of Philanthropy, collecting, and love of art.
© National Gallery of Art, East building lobby
A crucial meeting took place in November 1936, as Paul recalled, how Andrew W. Mellon was already in failing health. (He was to die nine months later.) Paul had prepared his case and telling his father how he could never be just like him or a man of business.
To his surprise, his father told him that it was really not necessary to take an active part in the businesses. As an owner, you would ”keep vaguely in touch through the head people.” The Basics, his father, explained to him that good management is the only thing that mattered–concerning any business. Perhaps, they would never share a love for business; nonetheless, father and son were ultimately joined at last in another realm.
In 1937, the National Gallery of Art’s construction began just two months before A.W. Mellon’s death. Paul Mellon served as the National Gallery’s President and trustee from (1937–1939). Ailsa Mellon Bruce was President of the NGA (1939–1945). After WWII, Major Mellon returned from serving in the Army. Mr. Mellon reinstated as President / Trustee of the NGA later becoming Chairman for many more years
© National Gallery of Art,(East),4th Street entrance
In 1969, Paul Mellon joined his sister, Ailsa Mellon Bruce (who died in 1969), and agreed to underwrite the costs, for the East building costs rose to $94 million. In his memoirs, Mr. Mellon selected the Architect, I. M. Pei, who was challenged to create a unique building, but different from the West Building, on a very odd shaped lot.
With its huge aerial inner space and its dexterous use of a difficult trapezoid-shaped ground plan, and the East Building was from the outset a crowd-pleaser. The East building also proved itself well able to display 20th-century art of many kinds and to attract substantial gifts in that field.
Source: “Reflections in a Silver Spoon” by Paul Mellon, “a Memoir”.
For more info:
Alisa Mellon Bruce:Paul Mellon Founders-East NGA
Andrew Mellon: Inital Founder of National of Art – West
Paul Mellon – Remembered