Ernest Lawson, (American, 1873-1939). Autumn Hills, 1917. Gift of George D. Pratt (Class of 1893). 1932.14.

Since the founding of the Mead Art Museum in 1949, historic American art has occupied a prominent position. In the 1930s and ’40s, before construction of the museum began, brothers George Dupont Pratt, Class of 1893, and Herbert Lee Pratt, Class of 1895, donated hundreds of American artworks, from miniature portraits by leading painters of the Colonial era, such as John Singleton Copley (1738–1815) and James Peale (1749–1831), to larger-than-life bronze statues by preeminent American sculptor Paul Manship (1885–1966). These remarkable gifts established American art as a cornerstone of Amherst’s collection—a specialization that grew considerably between 1969 and 1981, when Herbert W. Plimpton donated over forty American paintings, including sublime landscapes by Hudson River School masters Frederic Church (1826–1900) and Albert Bierstadt (1830–1902).

Representing over two centuries of American art and artistry—and of changing culture, artistic styles, and perspectives—the works on view in these galleries chart the early days in the building of a nation, and a museum.

Organized by Vanja Malloy, curator of American art, and presented with generous support from the Hall and Kate Peterson Fund.