Smithsonian American Art Museum

Smithsonian American Art Museum | paintings in chronological order

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Smithsonian American Art Museum

The Smithsonian American Art Museum, the nation’s first art collection, is an unparalleled record of the American experience from the colonial period to today. The museum is the home to one of the largest and most inclusive collections of American art in the world. Highlights are images of the American West, WPA murals, impressionism, folk art, photography, video and media art, works by African American and Latino artists, and modern and contemporary art.

The Luce Foundation Center for American Art, the first visible art storage and study center in Washington, allows visitors to browse more than 3,300 works from the collection. It adjoins the Lunder Conservation Center, the first art conservation facility to allow the public permanent behind-the-scenes views of the preservation of artworks. Open 11:30 am – 7 pm daily except Dec. 25.


The collection began modestly in 1829 when a Washingtonian named John Varden set out to form a museum in the nation’s capital for his collection of European art. At first, the art was placed in a room he added to his own house near the U.S. Capitol.

The establishment of the Smithsonian in 1846 eclipsed the prestige of the institute, which later disbanded. By 1858, a majority of the items on view at the Patent Office Building were moved a few blocks to the newly completed Smithsonian Castle. The remainder of the collection followed in 1862. But a destructive fire there in 1865 increased the Smithsonian’s reluctance to build cultural collections. For the rest of the century, most of the artwork was placed on loan to the Library of Congress and to the Corcoran Gallery of Art.

In 1980, the museum’s name was changed to the National Museum of American Art as part of a Smithsonian initiative to standardize the names of its many museums and to reflect the museum’s primary focus on American Art. Since then, the museum’s exclusive mission has been the acquisition, promotion, and interpretation of the work of artists in the United States. Twenty years later, the museum proposed that it be called the Smithsonian American Art Museum as an easy-to-remember name and a straightforward presentation of its mission. Congress approved this change in October 2000.


F St NW & 8th St NW, Washington, DC 20004, USA

Smithsonian American Art Museum
Open Daily: 11:30 a.m.–7 p.m.

Renwick Gallery
Open Daily: 10:00 a.m.–5:30 p.m.

more information:

official website

Smithsonian American Art Museum | paintings in chronological order

1901 – 1925

John White Alexander, June, 1911

John White Alexander, June, 1911

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