Behind the Scenes: Joseph C. Ely

November 18, 2021

A dark, unassuming painting which has hung in the Art Room for more than 100 years was recently restored to reveal a striking portrait of art collector, lawyer, and Athenæum board president Joseph C. Ely (c. 1849-97). R. Tripp Evans, art historian and board member, explores Ely’s life and legacy.


R. Tripp Evans is a Professor of Art History at Wheaton College in Norton, MA, where he specializes in the art and architecture of the Americas. He received his B.A. in Architectural History from the University of Virginia and his M.A. and Ph.D. in the History of Art from Yale University. He is the author of two books, Romancing the Maya: Mexican Antiquity in the American Imagination, 1820-1915 (University of Texas Press: 2004) and Grant Wood: A Life (Alfred A. Knopf: 2010), the latter of which won the 2010 National Award for Arts Writing. He lives with his husband, Ed Cabral, on Providence’s West Side.

This season was generously supported by the following friends and partners:

Categories: Art History, Art, and Design, Athenæum, Local Interest