American Art

The American collection includes painting, sculpture and works on paper made in the United States from the 18th century through World War II.

Building the Collection

Trustees made the museum’s first American acquisition in 1930, Gilbert Stuart’s The Right Honorable John Foster. Another important early purchase was Raphaelle Peale’s Venus Rising from the Sea – A Deception. During the next four decades, several notable early 20th-century paintings, including Marsden Hartley’s Himmel, were purchased.

The Collection Grows

Beginning in the 1970s, a series of key gifts from the Enid and Crosby Kemper Foundation, including Frederic Edwin Church’s Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives and John Singer Sargent’s Mrs. Cecil Wade, significantly enhanced the collection. The Ever Glades Fund, established in 2002 through the generosity of Sarah and Landon Rowland, enabled the continued growth of the collection in the 21st century, making possible acquisitions such as Thomas Cole’s The Mill, Sunset and Fitz Henry Lane’s “Starlight” in Harbor.

Bingham and Benton

The American Collection has a particular strength in regional artists and themes. The museum is a major repository of work by the Missouri artist George Caleb Bingham with paintings that illuminate life and democracy on the American frontier. The Nelson-Atkins also holds the largest public collection of art by Missourian Thomas Hart Benton, which includes a bequest from the artist of 45 paintings and drawings.

Thomas Hart Benton, American (1889-1975). <em>Persephone</em>, 1938-1939.
Thomas Hart Benton, American (1889-1975). Persephone, 1938-1939.
Tempera with oil glazes on canvas, mounted on panel, 72 1/8 x 56 1/16 inches. Purchase: acquired through the generosity of the Yellow Freight System Foundation, Mrs. Herbert O. Peet, Richard J. Stern, the Doris Jones Stein Foundation, the Jacob L. and Ella C. Loose Foundation, Mr. and Mrs. Richard M. Levin, and Mr. and Mrs. Marvin Rich, F86-57. Art © Thomas Hart Benton and Rita P. Benton Testamentary Trusts/UMB Bank Trustee/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY.
Thomas Eakins, American (1844-1916). <em>Monsignor James P. Turner</em>, ca. 1906.
Thomas Eakins, American (1844-1916). Monsignor James P. Turner, ca. 1906.
Oil on canvas, 7 feet 4 1/8 inches x 41 7/8 inches. Gift of the Enid and Crosby Kemper Foundation, F83-41.
John Singer Sargent, American (1856-1925). <em>Mrs. Cecil Wade</em>, 1886.
John Singer Sargent, American (1856-1925). Mrs. Cecil Wade, 1886.
Oil on canvas, 66 x 54 1/4 inches. Gift of the Enid and Crosby Kemper Foundation, F86-23.
Georgia O’Keeffe, American (1887-1986). <em>Apple Blossoms</em>, 1930.
Georgia O’Keeffe, American (1887-1986). Apple Blossoms, 1930.
Oil on canvas, 36 x 24 inches. Gift of Mrs. Louis Sosland, F81-62. Art © Georgia O’Keeffe Museum / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.
William Sidney Mount, American (1807-1868). <em>Winding Up</em>, 1836.
William Sidney Mount, American (1807-1868). Winding Up, 1836.
Oil on wood panel, 18 3/8 x 14 15/16 inches. Gift of the Enid and Crosby Kemper Foundation, F77-39.
Marsden Hartley, American (1877-1943). <em>Himmel</em>, ca. 1914-1915.
Marsden Hartley, American (1877-1943). Himmel, ca. 1914-1915.
Oil on canvas, 47 1/4 x 47 3/8 inches. Gift of the Friends of Art, 56-118.
George Caleb Bingham, American (1811-1879). <em>Canvassing for a Vote</em>, 1852.
George Caleb Bingham, American (1811-1879). Canvassing for a Vote, 1852.
Oil on canvas, 25 1/4 x 30 1/2 inches. Purchase: William Rockhill Nelson Trust, 54-9.
Raphaelle Peale, American (1774-1825). <em>Venus Rising From the Sea—A Deception</em>, ca. 1822.
Raphaelle Peale, American (1774-1825). Venus Rising From the Sea—A Deception, ca. 1822.
Oil on canvas, 29 1/8 x 24 1/8 inches. Purchase: William Rockhill Nelson Trust, 34-147.
Benjamin West, American (1738-1820). <em>Mr. and Mrs. John Custance</em>, 1778.
Benjamin West, American (1738-1820). Mr. and Mrs. John Custance, 1778.
Oil on canvas, 60 1/4 x 84 5/8 inches. Purchase: William Rockhill Nelson Trust, 34-77.
Thomas Cole, American (b. England, 1801-1848). <em>The Mill, Sunset</em>, 1844.
Thomas Cole, American (b. England, 1801-1848). The Mill, Sunset, 1844.
Oil on canvas, 26 1/8 x 36 1/16 inches. Purchase: William Rockhill Nelson Trust through The Ever Glades Fund and exchange of a gift from the Howard P. Treadway and Tertia F. Treadway Collection, 2004.29. Gallery 211.
Frederic Edwin Church, American (1826-1900). <em>Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives</em>, 1870.
Frederic Edwin Church, American (1826-1900). Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives, 1870.
Oil on canvas, 54 1/4 x 84 3/8 inches. Gift of the Enid and Crosby Kemper Foundation, F77-40/1.
Aaron Douglas, American (1899-1979). <em>Study for Aspects of Negro Life: An Idyll of the Deep South</em>, 1934.
Aaron Douglas, American (1899-1979). Study for Aspects of Negro Life: An Idyll of the Deep South, 1934.


Gouache over pencil on artist board, Image: 10 x 24 3/8 inches; Sheet: 15 x 29 3/16 inches. Purchase: William Rockhill Nelson Trust through the gift of David C. and Thelma G. Driskell; the generosity of Jeannette Nichols, Gwyn Prentice and Andy Atterbury, Rex and Jeanne Sinquefield, Mary and Alan Atterbury, the Sosland Family, Adelaide C. Ward, G. Wesley Nedblake, J. Scott Francis, Nancy and Rick Green, Sherrill Mulhern, Ann and G. Kenneth Baum, Sandra and Willie Lawrence, Phyllis and Ron Nolan, Union Pacific Foundation, Ann Dickinson, Rose Bryant, and Barbara and Herman Jones; Clifton R. Mitchell Fund; bequest of Dorothy K. Rice; and exchange of the gifts of Fred Cameron Vincent, Mr. and Mrs. Otto Wittman, Mr. and Mrs. Herbert Vincent Jones in memory of Fred Cameron Vincent, and Mr. and Mrs. Richard S. Davis through the Friends of Art, Mrs. James P. Townley, the Howard P. Treadway and Tertia F. Treadway Collection, Ainslie Galleries, Mr. and Mrs. Albert R. Jones, Mrs. Nell H. Stevenson from the estate of S. Herbert Hare, Mrs. Massey Holmes, the National Academy of Design from the Mrs. William T. Brewster bequest, Mrs. Francis M. Dean, Earle W. Grant, Dr. Harry H. Watts, Dupuy G. Warrick, Richard Shields, the Friends of Art, Mrs. Alfred B. Clark, Harold Woodbury Parsons, Mr. and Mrs. Milton McGreevy, Mrs. J. N. Rosenberg, Mrs. Logan Clendening, Mr. and Mrs. Charles A. Stone, Harvey Leepa, Mrs. Peter T. Bohan, Mrs. Waters, and the bequests of Earl Katz and Dorothy “Sis” Katz, Marie P. McCune, Helen Harding, Wallace C. Goffe, Frances M. Logan, Mrs. Clyde Bonebrake Lockwood, Mrs. Peter T. Bohan, Herbert Vincent Jones Jr., Mrs. Walter M. Jaccard, Helen F. Spencer, Maud Cooper Needles, Milton McGreevy, and Nelson Trust and Nelson Gallery Foundation properties, 2007.18. Art © Heirs of Aaron Douglas/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY.