Works of Art

The MHS Art Collection has served as a vital complement to our library collections since 1796 when the Society acquired its first painting, a portrait of colonial governor Thomas Hutchinson. Since then the MHS art collection has grown to include 380 portrait paintings, 67 city- and landscapes, 160 miniature portraits, and 52 sculptures.  For information about drawings and other works of art on paper, see the Graphics page.

Paintings

Many of the Society's portraits are of well-known historical figures, including John and Abigail Adams, by Benjamin Blyth; Anne Pollard, the last survivor of the 1630 Puritan migration, painted at 100 years of age; Daniel Webster, an especially popular subject with several artists in our collection; and George Washington, from life by Joseph Wright with John Trumbull, and also by Christian Gullager. 

Boston artists constitute one particular strength of the painting collection, boasting works by John Singleton Copley, Gilbert Stuart, Chester Harding, Alonzo Hartwell, Samuel Stillman Osgood, John Smibert, and John Singer Sargent. The miniature painting collection includes pieces by Sarah Goodridge and Richard Morell Staigg. Cityscapes and landscapes form a small but important subset of the collection. James Marston's State Street, 1801, two of Josiah Wolcott's views of Brook Farm, and the early-19th-century view of The Old Feather Store, Dock Square are three of the better known examples. Revolutionary-era views include two of Christian Remick's watercolors of Boston Harbor showing the landing of British troops in 1768.

Sculpture

The MHS sculpture collection consists primarily of portrait busts. Prominent 19th-century sculptors such as Thomas Ball, Richard S. Greenough, Henry Dexter, and Hiram Powers are represented in the collection. The Society also owns two works by Dover, Mass., sculptor Amelia Peabody (1890-1984). 

How to Find Works of Art

All of the Society's paintings, miniature portraits, and sculptures are cataloged in ABIGAIL, and most of the portraits acquired by the MHS before 1988 appear in Portraits in the Massachusetts Historical Society, published by the Society.

Viewing Works of Art

Visit the online Gallery to view highlights of the art collection, or visit the Society in person to view artwork on display [link to exhibition and tours somehow].  Artwork not on display is available by appointment only; contact the Curator of Art for more information.

Upcoming Events

Modern American Society and Culture Seminar; The Irish Atlantic

Moving News, Affecting Relief: The Irish Famine’s Trans-Atlantic Circulations

28Mar 5:15PM 2017

The ships that carried Irish famine victims across the Atlantic also carried tragic accounts of those left behind; in response, North Americans sent millions of dollars ...

Brown Bag

An Actor’s Tale: Theater, Culture, and Everyday Life in Nineteenth-Century U.S. America

29Mar 12:00PM 2017

Hughes will discuss her monograph-in-progress, inspired by the diary of U.S. actor Harry Watkins (1825-1894). In “An Actor’s Tale,” she deploys ...

Author Talk; Politics of Taste

Tea Sets and Tyranny: The Politics of Politeness in Early America

29Mar 6:00PM 2017
There will be a pre-talk reception at 5:30pm.

Even as eighteenth-century thinkers from John Locke to Thomas Jefferson struggled to find effective means to restrain power, contemporary discussions of society gave ...

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Gertrude Codman Carter’s Diary, March 1917

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