19th-century American Art

Woodland Path by Asher B. Durand

Woodland Path by
Asher B. Durand

The Williams and Proctor families collected American and European paintings, fine furniture, decorative arts, manuscripts, holographs, rare books and related materials throughout the 19th century and in the early 20th century, until the death in 1935 of Maria Proctor, the last of the Institute's founders. The museum has generally sought to expand and enrich the basic collecting interests of the MWPAI's founders and key benefactors.

Highlights of the 19th-century American painting and sculpture collections include works by William M. Chase, Thomas Cole, William Harnett, Winslow Homer, James Peale, Raphaelle Peale, John F. Peto, Hiram Powers and Augustus Saint-Gaudens.

The museum's historical American painting collection is noteworthy for its collection of works by the Hudson River School, a group of early 19th-century Romantic landscape painters based in New York City who painted realistic views of the Hudson River Valley and surrounding areas. One of the founders of the school, Thomas Cole, is represented by his famous four-part allegorical series of paintings, "The Voyage of Life," which Cole painted in 1839-40. There are other Hudson River School landscape paintings in the collection by Frederic E. Church, Jasper F. Cropsey, Asher B. Durand, Sanford R. Gifford, Henry Inman, George Inness, David Johnson, William T. Richards, Ferdinand Richardt, Francis A. Silva and Alexander H. Wyant.


Young Woman Going to a Procession by Jules A. Breton

Young Woman Going to a Procession by Jules A. Breton

Also included in the collection are 19th-century American and European frames, manuscripts, holographs, rare books, the Proctor watch, thimble and photograph collections, artistic book bindings and scrap books collected by the Institute's founders and benefactors, as well as Western and Asian graphic arts from the 16th century to the present.