The American Colonies and the Early Republic
The museum's collection begins with works from the colonies of New Spain and New England. Some of the oldest works in the collection are from seventheenth-century Puerto Rico—Santa Bárbara (Saint Barbara), a painting from about 1680–90, and Nuestra Señora de los Dolores (Our Lady of Sorrows), a painted wood sculpture from about 1675–1725. The collection features artworks that trace the transformation of the thirteen colonies into a nation, including portraits by John Singleton Copley, Charles Willson Peale, and Gilbert Stuart; landscapes by Thomas Cole; and sculptures by Horatio Greenough. Copley's portrait of Mrs. George Watson emphasizes luxurious fabric, lace, Delft pottery, and flowers—costly imports and fitting props for the wife of a prominent Boston merchant. That port city was a vital center of shipping and trade in the English colonies.
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Pictured: John Singleton Copley, Mrs. George Watson, 1765, oil, 49 7/8 x 40 in., Smithsonian American Art Museum, Partial gift of Henderson Inches Jr., in honor of his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Inches, and museum purchase made possible in part by Mr. and Mrs. R. Crosby Kemper through the Crosby Kemper Foundation; the American Art Forum; and and the Luisita L. and Franz H. Denghausen Endowment