The Permanent Collection at Danforth Art consists of approximately 3,500 objects in all media. The Museum has been building the collection since its founding in 1975, and actively collects and holds examples of American Art in all media from the early nineteenth century to the present day. The collection includes familiar names from American art history as well as significant holdings of contemporary regional art from both established and emerging artists. Danforth Art is proud to be the caretaker of the Meta Vaux Warrick Fuller Special Collection; more information about that collection is available here. To learn more about upcoming opportunities to view or learn about works in our Permanent Collection, please visit our Upcoming Exhibition and Adult Programs/Outreach.
Explore a selection of these works more deeply in this online gallery. For more information about the work (date, medium, whether it is currently on view), please click on the artwork image below to open a page from our collections database. Details of works are shown as thumbnails below; full images are shown on the linked pages.
Figuration in American Art
Representations of the figure, particularly through formal portraits, are laden with symbolic meaning. Throughout art history, elements such as pose, costume, and background served as key components in decoding figural representation. Solemnity in pose or elaborateness of dress was meant to convey history, class status, and, more personally, character. Works by Gilbert Stuart, Marie Danforth Page, Gerrit Beneker, and other collection artists from the nineteenth century to the present day depict the myriad ways in which monumentality in figuration can be deployed to create a social identity.
New England Academic Traditions
Boston was a rich cultural capital at the turn of the twentieth century, yet it was also a city that struggled with modernism. However, artists of The Boston School could be both vibrant and progressive, and their work mirrored the time in which it was created. Both the women and men who studied at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts used intensive figure studies to help establish a distinctive style that positioned Boston as a city wavering on the cusp of the modern era. While some artists were more eager for change than others, creating a truly modern art in New England worked a circuitous path before blossoming in a number of new and expressive manifestations. Perhaps surprisingly, one of the places where the historical and the modern met was through the landscape. Works by artists such as George Hawley Hallowell reference a more unsettled, and modern, landscape view.
Painting in Boston
Boston Expressionism, a movement defined by an attention to figural abstraction, was deeply rooted in early twentieth-century symbolism and expressionism in Europe. Working in Boston from the late 1930s through the 1950s, many of these artists studied under Karl Zerbe at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, although multiple generations of artists working in this expressive vein have followed. Boston Expressionists embraced different aspects of expressionism—the social, the religious, the mystical—but all found commonality in the need to convey a personal and emotional reaction through expressive mark-making. At a time when abstraction was the dominant trend in the art world, these artists retained an element of the figure in their work, using the figure as an expression of the struggle with identifying and codifying an artistic identity.
Contemporary, Regional Art
Danforth Art is committed to the work of contemporary regional artists, and is proud to be the home for the Annual Juried Exhibition and the New England Photography Biennial. The museum has significant holdings across media from artists who worked to shape a vibrant artistic tradition in and around Boston, and those who are actively engaged with the art scene throughout New England. Their works reference art historical traditions while remaining boldly contemporary.