The visionary collecting policy of the Mead’s first director, Charles H. Morgan (a classical archaeologist who taught at Amherst from 1939 until 1971), shaped the museum’s collection of American art into one of the finest and most varied in an academic institution. Of the more than 5,000 American paintings, sculptures, works on paper, and applied arts now held at Amherst, many arrived as gifts from key donors including George D. Pratt (Class of 1893), Herbert L. Pratt (Class of 1895), Herbert W. Plimpton, and William Gerdts (Class of 1949.) The extensive collection of portraits includes major works by John Singleton Copley, Benjamin West, Gilbert Stuart, Rembrandt Peale, and Samuel F.B. Morse. Landscapes range from a Peaceable Kingdom by Edward Hicks to Hudson River School views by Thomas Cole, Frederic Edwin Church, Asher B. Durand, Martin Johnson Heade, Sanford Gifford, Thomas Moran, and John Frederick Kensett, to sublime Western scenes by Albert Bierstadt. The Mead holds genre paintings by Thomas Eakins, Thomas Doughty, Alvan Fisher, Eastman Johnson, and Thomas Hovenden; Tonalist views by George Inness, Thomas Wilmer Dewing, and James Abbott McNeill Whistler; The Fisher Girl by Winslow Homer; and a large group of Impressionist landscapes by Childe Hassam, Willard Metcalf, Ernest Lawson, John Twachtman, and Theodore Robinson.
The museum also holds a strong group of works by members of The Eight—Arthur B. Davies, William Glackens, Robert Henri, Ernest Lawson, George Luks, Maurice Prendergast, Everett Shinn, and John Sloan—and more than seventy works in all media by George Bellows, a collection complemented by a group of documents and photographs held by the Archives and Special Collections at the College’s Frost Library. The Mead’s holdings of Modern and contemporary American art are less extensive, but include important works by Joseph Albers, Milton Avery, Judy Chicago, Joseph Cornell, Ralston Crawford, Lesley Dill, Heide Fasnacht, Elizabeth Murray, and Fairfield Porter. Sculptures range from Augustus Saint Gaudens, Daniel Chester French, John Rogers, Frederic Remington, and William Henry Rinehart to Sol LeWitt and Frank Stella. Works on paper include watercolors by Hassam, Homer, John Singer Sargent, Reginald Marsh, John Marin, Andrew Wyeth, Andy Warhol, and Tina Barney. A select group of furniture, ceramics, silver, and textiles completes the museum’s varied American holdings.