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New England’s great college art museums

In their long histories, New England’s colleges and universities have amassed some of the finest collections of art in America, often donated by rich alumni and many exhibited inside singular works of architecture.

The critically acclaimed, year-old Alfond-Lunder Family Pavilion, for example, houses part of the Colby College Museum of Art, which displays works by Americans Mary Cassatt, William Merritt Chase, John Singleton Copley, Winslow Homer, Gilbert Stuart, and Andrew Wyeth, and Europeans and Impressionists Courbet, Gauguin, Monet, Picasso, and Renoir.

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Pritzker Prize-winning Spanish architect Rafael Moneo’s first US commission, the Davis Museum at Wellesley, houses selections from a permanent collection of works by Alexander Calder, Willem de Kooning, Monet, Cézanne, Sir Joshua Reynolds, Copley, and women artists including Louise Nevelson, Angelica Kauffman, and Anne Whitney.

Among the finest university collections, the Harvard Art Museums have been closed for renovation; they reopen in November.

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But one of the oldest and richest, begun in 1811, is at Bowdoin, in Brunswick, Maine, with American colonial and Federal portraits by Copley and Stuart, Homer memorabilia and woodblock prints, works by Rockwell Kent, and one of the earliest collections of African-American art, all housed in an 1894 building designed by McKim, Meade and White that is itself an architectural landmark.

And Dartmouth has one of the largest, with works by Rembrandt, Goya, Pissaro, Toulouse-Lautrec, Picasso, Gris, Braque, Matisse, Kandinsky, Modigliani, Miro, Harriet Hosmer, and Georgia O’Keeffe, and a collection of propaganda posters from the world wars.

Among the 11,000 objects in its permanent collection, Williams boasts art by Homer, O’Keeffe, Edward Hopper, Grant Wood, de Kooning, Nevelson, Andy Warhol, Picasso, and Marc Chagall.

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Some universities specialize. Yale, for instance, has the largest collection of British art outside Britain, with paintings by Hogarth, Gainsborough, Reynolds, Stubbs, Constable, and Turner. The Rose Art Museum at Brandeis, narrowly saved three years ago from closing, focuses on 20th-century art, with examples by de Kooning, Helen Frankenthaler, Marsden Hartley, Robert Motherwell, Robert Rauschenberg, and others.

Not all of universities’ great art is indoors. MIT, for instance, has an unparalleled permanent collection of contemporary art displayed around its campus, including sculptures by Calder, Nevelson, and Henry Moore; a self-guided tour is available at the institute’s List Gallery, a grid-patterned art museum designed by MIT alumnus I. M. Pei. And Tufts has what it calls its Museum Without Walls,” an app that narrates a guided tour of works of art around the campus.

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