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

Interreligious Responses to the Settlement House Movement, 1880-1924

25Apr 5:15PM 2017

By 1913, over 400 settlement houses catered to immigrants and laborers across the United States. This paper analyzes how Catholic and Jewish immigrant communities in New ...

Author Talk

John Quincy Adams and the Politics of Slavery: Selections from the Diary

26Apr 6:00PM 2017
There will be a pre-talk reception at 5:30pm.

In the final years of his political career, President John Quincy Adams was known for his objections to slavery. As a young statesman, however, he supported slavery. What ...

Cooking Boston

Cooking Boston: Eating Other People's Food

27Apr 6:00PM 2017
There will be a pre-talk reception at 5:30pm.

Program 2: Eating Other People's FoodIn the second half of the 20th century, Americans were re-introduced to the food of the world. Most famously, Julia Child in ...

From our Blog

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PLEASE NOTE THAT THE LIBRARY IS CLOSED ON WEDNESDAY, 26 APRIL, FOR A STAFF EVENT.  This week's program schedule is heavy in the middle, with a seminar and a pair of public programs. Here are the ...

“All things are in common now”

Today is the 242nd anniversary of the battles of Lexington and Concord, the first battles of the American Revolution. The MHS holds some terrific letters and diaries containing first-hand accounts of ...

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