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

Author Talk

Lexington & Concord: The Battle Heard Round the World

19Apr 6:00PM 2018
There will be a pre-talk reception at 5:30.

The mounting political tensions that ignited the battles of Lexington and Concord are critical to the narrative of the American Revolution. However, the economic forces ...

Begin at the Beginning - Overstepping Their Bounds: How the Puritans Wrested Massachusetts from ...

21Apr 1:00PM 2018

In 1628, King Charles the 1st made a royal grant of what is now the entire state of Massachusetts (not including Plymouth) to the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Remarkably ...

Modern American Society and Culture Seminar

Creepy Crawling in Los Angeles: The Manson Family and Cultural Mixing as Apocalypse

24Apr 5:15PM 2018

Charles Manson made national news in 1969 when several “Family” members were arrested for murder, but by then he was well-established in Los Angeles. This ...

From our Blog

This Week @ MHS

The Society is CLOSED on Monday, 16 April, for Patiots' Day/Marathon Monday. Enjoy the race! After the holiday we get right back into the public events here at the MHS. Here are the details: - ...

“Vast awful & never ending Eternity”: Personal Accounts of ...

I recently came across the Elizabeth Craft White diary, written in 1770 when the death of her husband left her distraught. “Life seems a burden to me since Death, Cruel, & unrelenting Death- ...

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