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.
Due to the federal government shutdown, the Smithsonian American Art Museum and Renwick Gallery are closed; programs and events at the museum are also canceled.