Paul Mellon; Philanthropist, Horse Breeder

<i> From Times Staff and Wire Reports</i>

Paul Mellon, a renowned philanthropist who donated hundreds of works of art to the National Gallery of Art and other museums, has died at the age of 91.

Mellon, also a well-known breeder of thoroughbred racehorses, died Monday at his 400-acre farm in Upperville, Va.

Since 1964, Mellon and his wife had given 913 works of art to the gallery, by artists including Edouard Manet, Claude Monet, Auguste Renoir, Paul Cezanne, Edgar Degas, Pablo Picasso and Vincent van Gogh.


Mellon was the son of Andrew W. Mellon, the industrialist and financier who in 1937 founded the museum on the national Mall in Washington. Andrew Mellon also served as secretary of the treasury from 1921 to 1931 and as U.S. ambassador to Britain from 1931 to 1932.

Andrew Mellon died before the National Gallery formally opened March 17, 1941. Paul Mellon officially presented it to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who accepted it on behalf of the nation.

“It was my father’s hope, and it is ours,” Mellon said then, “that the National Gallery would become not a static but a living institution, growing in usefulness and importance to artists, scholars and the general public.”

Mellon and his sister, Ailsa Mellon Bruce, donated the National Gallery’s East Building, at a cost of $94.4 million.

Mellon also served as president of the National Gallery for many years and was chairman of its Board of Trustees from 1979 until his retirement in 1985. He was succeeded by his handpicked successor, Franklin D. Murphy, the late Times Mirror Co. chairman and chief executive officer and UCLA chancellor.

In 1985, Mellon was one of the first recipients of the National Medal of Arts, presented to him by President Ronald Reagan.

The Pittsburgh banking family was one of the nation’s wealthiest, enabling Paul Mellon, born in 1907, to pursue his interests in art, philanthropy and horse breeding. His horse, Sea Hero, won the Kentucky Derby in 1993.

Forbes magazine last year estimated Mellon’s wealth at $1.4 billion, ranking him as the 124th-richest American.

Mellon contributed to a wide variety of charitable organizations, but especially supported higher education, the arts and humanities, conservation and veterinary research. He was particularly generous to his alma mater, Yale University, giving it the multimillion-dollar Center for British Art and 185 works created by British artists between 1697 and 1851.

Mellon also contributed toward the purchase of Cape Hatteras National Seashore in North Carolina and gave the land for Sky Meadows State Park to Virginia.

“Modest and kind, he was one of the greatest philanthropists of our time and a gentleman in every sense,” said Earl A. Powell III, National Gallery of Art director and former head of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

In addition to Yale, Mellon earned a degree from Cambridge University and served with the Army cavalry and the Office of Strategic Services (forerunner of the Central Intelligence Agency) during World War II.

He is survived by his wife of 50 years, the former Rachel “Bunny” Lambert Lloyd. Other survivors include his daughter, Catherine Conover, and son, Timothy, from his first marriage to Mary Conover Brown, who died in 1946, and three grandchildren.