Early American Art

Media - 1991.189 - SAAM-1991.189_1 - 67574

John Singleton Copley, Mrs. George Watson, 1765

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 CopleyCharles 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.

Selected Works

Media - 1910.10.3 - SAAM-1910.10.3_1 - 73425
George Washington
On view
Media - 1996.91.9 - SAAM-1996.91.9_1-000001 - 12727
Santa Barbara
Unidentified (Puerto Rican)
Dateca. 1680-1690
oil on wood panel
On view
Media - 1991.189 - SAAM-1991.189_1 - 67574
Mrs. George Watson
oil on canvas
On view
Media - 2006.12.1 - SAAM-2006.12.1_1 - 65668
Robert Hooper
Dateca. 1770-1772
oil on canvas
On view
Media - 1919.1.1 - SAAM-1919.1.1_1 - 248
Samuel F. B. Morse
On view
Media - 1980.93 - SAAM-1980.93_1 - 6056
Mrs. James Smith and Grandson
oil on canvas
On view
Media - 1982.96 - SAAM-1982.96_1 - 58854
Falls at Catskill
Dateca. 1828-1829
lithograph on paper
Not on view
Media - 1950.4.39 - SAAM-1950.4.39_1 - 1234
Chief Justice Theophilus Parsons
Attributed to Sarah Goodridge
Dateca. 1820
watercolor on ivory
Not on view
Media - 1923.8.4 - SAAM-1923.8.4_1 - 288
Portrait of a Lady
Dateca. 1820-1825
oil on canvas
Not on view
Media - 1996.91.55 - SAAM-1996.91.55_2 - 129278
Nuestra Señora de los Dolores
Dateca. 1675-1725
carved and painted wood
Not on view

Related Artists

Media - portrait_image_113727.jpg - 90404
John Singleton Copley
born Boston, MA 1738-died 1815 London, England

Born in Boston, moved to London in 1774. The most celebrated American artist of the 18th century, he achieved great success first as a portraitist in Massachusetts, later as a history painter in England.

Media - portrait_image_113245.jpg - 90170
Charles Willson Peale
born Queen Anne's County, MD 1741-died Philadelphia, PA 1827

Born 15 April 1741, Queen Anne's County, Md. 1750, death of father. 1751, family moved to Annapolis. 1754, apprenticed to a saddler. 1761, established a shop in Annapolis. 1762, married Rachel Brewer.

Gilbert Stuart
born Saunderstown, Rhode Island Colony (now North Kingstown, RI) 1755-died Boston, MA 1828

Born in Rhode Island, trained in London, worked in the U.S. and the British Isles.

Media - portrait_image_113769.jpg - 90423
Thomas Cole
born Bolton-le-Moors, England 1801-died Catskill, NY 1848

As a young artist [Thomas] Cole roamed the Hudson River valley and the region around the Catskill and Adirondack mountains, making sketches of the shrubs, trees, rocks, and waterfalls that he later incorporated into his own imaginative compositions to

Horatio Greenough
born Boston, MA 1805-died Somerville, MA 1852

Horatio Greenough was the first American to make sculpture his profession and to gain international recognition thereby. He was born in Boston and began his career copying casts of classical sculptures at the Boston Athenaeum.