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

Online Event; Conversation

Jefferson: Then and Now

29Oct 5:30PM 2020
This is an online program

The reputations of all of the founders have changed dramatically over the course of American history, none more than that of Thomas Jefferson. Historians Annette Gordon ...

African American History Seminar; Online Event

Success to the Literary Society! Black Male Youth Organizing in Early Nineteenth-Century Boston

5Nov 5:15PM 2020
This is an online program

In 1841, a dozen or so African American male youth aged twelve to sixteen established the Young Men’s Literary Society in Boston with the stated aim to promote ...

Teacher Workshop

Legislating the Environment: Teaching Environmental History and Civics

7Nov 9:30AM 2020
$25 Registration Fee

In partnership with the Tsongas Industrial History Center, we will explore the intersections of environmental history, science, and engineering. Chad Montrie, Professor ...

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Join us for a program this week! Here is a look at what is going on: - Tuesday, 29 January, 5:15 PM: Better Teaching through Technology, 1945-1969, with Victoria Cain, Northeastern ...

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Like so many good stories here at the Historical Society, it began with a reference question. Jeremy Belknap, hunting through his sources, asked Vice President John Adams for some help. Belknap, the ...

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