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.


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.


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

canceled History of Women and Gender Seminar

On Fantasy

20Mar 5:30PM 2018
Location: Fay House, Radcliffe Institute

This program is canceled due to illness. This paper argues that fantasies of racial and gendered mastery—seen in law, racial performance, and sexual violence&mdash ...

Author Talk

People before Highways: Boston Activists, Urban Planners, & A New Movement for City Making

20Mar 6:00PM 2018
There will be a pre-talk reception at 5:30.

In 1948, inspired by changes to federal law, Massachusetts officials started to plan highways circling and cutting through the heart of Boston. But when officials began ...

Brown Bag

From Corporate Charter to Modern Constitution: Massachusetts Transformations

21Mar 12:00PM 2018

The U.S. Constitution is not a “social contract,” but a popularly issued corporate charter.  America’s constitutional innovations&mdash ...

From our Blog

This Week @ MHS

It is the middle of the month and it appears that the lion of March is not making way for the lamb. Below is the round-up of events in the week to come, just be sure to keep an eye on our website to ...

Welcome to Our 2018-2019 MHS-NEH Fellows!

The Massachusetts Historical Society’s Research Department is pleased to announce our two 2018-2019 MHS-NEH Long-Term Fellows, Mara Caden and Brent Sirota. Mara Caden will be researching the ...

Read more from our blog

Have you seen?