Permanent Collection on View

Historical American Art

The Museum's historical American art collection is noteworthy for its holdings of Hudson River School landscape paintings by Thomas Cole, Frederic Church, Asher B. Durand, among others. Cole, the catalyst of this important movement, is represented by his famous four-part allegorical series, The Voyage of Life, painted in 1839-40. The paintings collection also boasts good examples of American Pre-Raphaelite and American Impressionist paintings by artists such as Fidelia Bridges and Childe Hassam. Collection highlights also include preeminent works in still life from Raphael Peale to John Peto, and fine portrait and figure paintings by Gilbert Stuart, Eastman Johnson, and William Merritt Chase. Nineteenth-century American sculpture is represented in important pieces by Hiram Powers, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, and Frederick MacMonnies.

The Museum's permanent collection features more than 600 19th-century American drawings created by the best-known artists of the pre-modern era. The drawing collection has a significant group of preliminary studies for paintings, as well as works of regional significance by artists who lived and worked in central New York State.

19th-Century American Decorative Arts

The Museum of Art’s world-renowned 19th-century decorative arts collection is among the finest in the country. It has its roots in the works purchased by the Institute founders and was rapidly enhanced beginning in the 1950s. Today it includes an impressive documented American furniture collection with works by Anthony Quervelle, John Henry Belter, Alexander Roux, Leon Marcotte, Kimbel and Cabus, Herter Brothers, George Schastey, Kilian Brothers, and Charles Baudouine, among others. Equally impressive are the glass, silver, and mixed metal holdings that include works by Tiffany & Co., Louis C. Tiffany, Gorham Manufacturing, Samuel Kirk, George W. Shiebler and Co., Bradley and Hubbard Mfg., Charles Parker, and Mount Washington Glass Co.

The decorative arts collection explores a broad spectrum of historical themes including America’s relationship with Europe, industrial technology, immigration history, social and domestic history, art and design evolution, and the growth of the American factory system. The collection is on view throughout the Museum’s galleries as well as in period room settings and intimate study storage galleries.

Modern and Contemporary American Art

The MWPAI Museum acquisitions policy is grounded in a history of supporting working artists. The Museum collections include remarkable holdings of American art from the 20th and 21st centuries, when artists examined and challenged traditional subject matter, materials, and processes. Discover how artists radically transformed painting, drawing, sculpture, printmaking, and photography as they sought a fresh approach that could express the needs of contemporary life in the United States.

Visitors will encounter significant works of art dating from the Armory Show in 1913 to American Scene, Abstract Expressionist, Spiral, Pop, Minimalist, and contemporary art. Some artists represented in the collection, whose names you may or may not recognize: George Luks, Edward Hopper, Georgia O’Keeffe, Norman Lewis, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, David Smith, Romare Bearden, Andy Warhol, Emma Amos, Louise Bourgeois, Liliana Porter, Bill Viola, and Alison Saar. The Museum continues to acquire new works in all.

The Edward Wales Root Collection of American Modernism

Edward Wales Root (1884-1956), a collector of 20th-century American painting and works on paper, was a generous patron of the Museum. His first major purchase was Maurice Prendergast’s Landscape with Figures, acquired at the legendary Armory Show in 1913, and he kept current with artistic developments, buying paintings, drawings and graphic arts by the likes of Charles Demuth, Edward Hopper, Reginald Marsh, Charles Burchfield, and Jackson Pollock. Root donated hundreds of drawings, graphic arts, and paintings to the Museum.

European Modernism

The Museum of Art is primarily a collection of art of the United States, but during the 1950s, a stellar group of European Modernist works was acquired to give broader context to the 20th-century American holdings. Harris Prior, Museum of Art Director from 1947-56, and Edward W. Root (1884-1956), Art Advisor, compiled lists of categories and artists whom they sought—abstraction (organic and geometric), cubism (early and late), surrealism, and so on. Working with the Sidney Janis Gallery in New York City, Prior and Root successfully assembled a remarkable body of material, including bronze sculptures by Jean Arp (1886-1966), Ernst Barlach (1870-1938), and Raymond Duchamp-Villon (1876-1918); a Merz collage by Kurt Schwitters; and paintings by Salvador Dalí (1904-89), Wassily Kandinsky 1866-1944), Paul Klee (1879-1940), Piet Mondrian (1872-1944), Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), and Gino Severini (1883-1966), among others.

Drawings and Graphic Arts

The Museum has extensive holdings of works on paper, both one-of-a-kind drawings and graphic arts in the edition. The drawings collection focuses on work by American artists and ranges in date from the late-18th century to the 21st century. There are particular strengths in 19th-century and mid-20th-century drawings, by artists such as William Stanley Haseltine, James McNeil Whistler, Winslow Homer, Norman Lewis, and Willem de Kooning. The Museum of Art also has notable watercolors by John Marin, Charles Demuth, Edward Hopper, and Charles Burchfield.

The graphic arts collection includes exemplary impressions in all printmaking media, from woodcut and intaglio (engraving, etching, drypoint, mezzotint, aquatint), to lithography, screenprinting (also called serigraphy) and photography-based processes. The Museum’s holdings range chronologically from works by European masters Albrecht Dürer, Rembrandt, and Francisco Goya to 19th-century Etching Revival and modern and contemporary artists such as Stephen Parrish, Paul Gauguin, Picasso, Jasper Johns, Alison Saar, and Lorna Simpson. There is also a small group of Japanese woodblock prints.

Because they are susceptible to light damage, they can only be exhibited infrequently.

Fountain Elms Period Rooms and Galleries

The grand Italianate house Fountain Elms stands today as a proud testament to the imposing residences which once majestically lined both sides of Genesee Street in Utica, New York. Helen Munson Williams (1824-94) and James Watson Williams (1810-73) built this house in 1850-52 working with Albany, New York, architect William Woollett, and they raised their daughters Grace (1846-1853), Rachel (1850-1915), and Maria (1853-1935) here.

When furnishing their home, James and Helen Williams turned to the finest New York City cabinetmakers to furnish the formal rooms. The original Charles Baudouine parlor suite, for example, is today in the Museum’s decorative arts collection as are many of the paintings and smaller decorative arts that graced Fountain Elms.


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