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.
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.
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.