Matthew Vassar wrote to the Rev. Elias L. Magoon, a charter trustee, confiming his purchase of Magoon's art collection as the nucleus for Vassar’s art gallery. "I am," he wrote, "to have from you your entire collection as it is—complete—Art itself & all matters relating to art—descriptive historic & otherwise just as it is in your house as I regard all such matter printed & otherwise as making the completeness of your collection for my purposes which are illustrative & educational.  We need no express contract—I rely upon you as a christian man."    Elizabeth Hazelton Haight, ed., The Autobiography and Letters of Matthew Vassar.

This collection, made by Magoon in England and purchased for $20,000, consisted of over 400 oils and water-colors by contemporary artists, American and English, including four original water-colors by Turner. The pictures were accompanied by a library of nearly 1,000 volumes.