The American art collection features masterworks of paintings and sculpture from Colonial portraiture through the modernist and abstract art of the first half of the 20th century. Highlights of this collection include fine Hudson River School landscapes, Missouri artist George Caleb Bingham's Election Series
and The Panorama of the Monumental Grandeur of the Mississippi Valley
(1850), a 348-foot-long, 25-panel painting by John J. Egan. These works offer insight into the ways Americans of earlier times saw themselves and understood their nation as well as the world beyond.View our American Collection
M. Melissa Wolfe joined the Saint Louis Art Museum as curator and head of the Department of American Art in January 2015.
She was previously the curator of American art at the Columbus Museum of Art
, where she has worked for 14 years on a succession of important exhibitions, catalogues and collection development. Her projects George Bellows and the American Experience
(2013), George Tooker: A Retrospective
(2008) and In Monet's Garden: The Lure of Giverny
(2007) were awarded significant funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Henry Luce Foundation and Terra Foundation for American Art. She also shepherded the noteworthy acquisition of the Philip J. and Suzanne Schiller Collection of American Social Commentary Art, 1930-1970, which includes 460 paintings and prints by noteworthy American artists such as Romare Bearden, Jacob Lawrence, Jared French, George Tooker and Joe Jones.
Melissa is currently working on the reinstallation of the American Art galleries, which will continue over the course of several years.
Over the course of history, American art has been shaped by the rich and complex melting pot of artists, subjects,, ideas, materials, and styles. Our newly reinstalled American Art galleries invite visitors to explore a broad range of works presented in a semi-chronological, thematic fashion, highlighting vital artistic developments over the course of several hundred years and the important role of art in the American experience.
Rembrandt Peale, American, 1778–1860; George Washington
, 1845; oil on canvas, framed: 48 5/8 x 41 5/8 inches; Saint Louis Art Museum, Bequest of Edith J. and C. C. Johnson Spink 30:2014
- Imagining a New Nation
In the earliest years of American independence, artists were merging a British artistic tradition with new styles and motifs that they believed would best represent American ideals. Highlights of this gallery include Rembrandt Peale's George Washington
and a desk and bookcase attributed to the Boston furniture carver John Welch.
- Everyday Americans
After the election of President Andrew Jackson, genre paintings—or, scenes of everyday people going about their everyday activities—became enormously popular. George Caleb Bingham, one of Missouri's most respected artists, established himself as one of the country's preeminent painters by capturing this spirit in the works on view, including Raftsmen Playing Cards
and his renowned Election Series
- Painting, Sculpture, and the "New World"
Landscape dominated 19th-century American painting and artists like Thomas Cole and Alfred Thompson Bricher were drawn to the American wilderness. Harriet Hosmer, George Inness, and other American artists traveled abroad to produce "Old World" scenes that reinforced the belief that the "New World" of the United States was poised to come into its own golden age. Highlights of this gallery include Frederic Remington's The Bronco Buster
and Edmonia Lewis's Portrait of a Woman
Carl Milles, American (born Sweden), 1875–1955; Dancing Maenad
, 1913; bronze, 27 x 17 1/2 x 7 inches, Saint Louis Art Museum, Funds given by Mr. Thomas F. Schlafly, Mrs. G. Gordon Hertslet, Mrs. John M. Olin, the Sachs Fund, Mr. and Mrs. Sam Langsdorf Jr., Mr. and Mrs. David F. Orwig, Mr. and Mrs. Edward M. Potter, Mr. and Mrs. Randolph Potter Jr., Dr. and Mrs. Eli R. Shuter, Station List Publishing Company, and other donors to the 1990 Art Enrichment Fund and Museum Shop Fund 664:1991
- Dialogues in American Sculpture
The bronze and marble sculptures on display offer a small selection of the variety of sculpture in America. Several of the artists featured lived and worked in St. Louis, bringing knowledge gained at other art centers to the city. Gallery highlights include Gaston Lachaise's Standing Woman
and Carl Milles's Dancing Maenad
- American Still Life
A mainstay of American art for more than 200 years, still-life paintings continue to engage us. Though disarmingly simple, they have the ability to disrupt our distracted multi-tasking by inviting us to pause and reflect. Featured works include Martin Johnson Heade's Magnolia
and Marsden Hartley's Driftwood on the Bagaduce
- The Gilded Age
The years between 1870 and 1920 were marked by the creation of vast fortunes, rampant political corruption, oppressive working conditions, and financial panics. During this period, conveying one's social position became less clear, and taste—or the ability to discern the fine from the common—became a mode to set the wealthy apart. Highlights include Henry Ossawa Tanner's Gateway, Tangier
and Winslow Homer's The Country School
William J. Glackens, American, 1870–1938; Young Woman in Green
, 1915; oil on canvas, 35 x 30 inches; Saint Louis Art Museum, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Ira Glackens 230:1966
- The Modern World
In the first decades of the 20th century, American artists saw a world in profound flux. Increased industrial production resulted in unprecedented urban growth, and new wealth established the museums and academies that supported the burgeoning art world. Yet, many artists found the support stifling and they rebelled with radical styles and subject matter. Highlights include William J. Glacken's Young Woman in Green
and photographer Russell Lee's Negro Sharecropper Girl, Texas
- The American Scene
American artists working in the 1930s and 40s saw their work's potential to initiate powerful change and give voice to their subjects. This engagement continued as the country emerged from the Great Depression and entered the buildup to World War II. Gallery highlights include John Steuart Curry's The Mississippi
and Philip Guston's Martial Memory