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Daniel Wadsworth

1771 - 1848

Daniel Wadsworth was an amateur artist and architect from Hartford, Connecticut, and brother-in-law to Benjamin Silliman, whom he accompanied on trips to Niagara Falls and the White Mountains to sketch landscapes. Like Silliman, Wadsworth came from a prominent, well-off family whose Puritans roots went far back into 17th-century New England. Also like Silliman, as a young man he toured Europe, although instead of going alone for purposes of study as Silliman had, he accompanied his father. The purpose of the tour was to acquire European cultural polish in manners and arts.

Wadsworth's commitment to raising the spiritual and cultural level of Americans is evident in his summer estate on Talcott Mountain, just west of Hartford, which he bought in 1805. With John Trumbull, a relative of his wife, Wadsworth built a 55-foot tower on a hill of his estate in 1810 (and another in 1839, after the first was destroyed), and opened his property to the public so they could enjoy the uplifting, spectacular view—despite his wife's complaint that having strangers on the estate made her feel trapped in the house. He commissioned a painting of the view from the property, which he called "Monte Video". Thomas Cole and Wadsworth were close friends until both died in 1848. Trumbull, Silliman, and Wadsworth traveled together often when they were young, forging lifelong bonds with one another. 

Danaiel Wadsworth is remembered best as one of the first American patrons of the arts, both for founding in 1842, the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, and for his support of Thomas Cole and other artists of the Hudson River School,  paintings of which formed the core of the original collection. They can still be viewed at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art today. Wadsworth originally planned to open only an art museum, but was persuaded to create the atheneum instead, with a broader mission that included a library, works of art and natural history, and public education.