Welcome to the Saint Louis Art Museum Collections Online



The Saint Louis Art Museum is one of the nation's leading comprehensive art museums with works of art of exceptional quality from virtually every culture and time period. The Museum has approximately 31,000 objects in its permanent collection; highlights are available for viewing online.


The Museum does not include complete exhibition history, bibliography, or information on all marks and inscriptions for every work of art on the website, due to the length of the material. However, the Museum will make such information available upon request. For more information, please contact registrar@slam.org.

COLLECTIONS

African American Art

The Saint Louis Art Museum is committed to collecting and displaying important works by African American artists. Our holdings include silverwork, paintings, sculpture, textiles, photographs, drawings, and prints dating from the early 19th century to present day. In 1943, the Museum received a gift of 60 paintings, prints, and drawings created under the auspices of the Federal Art Project, and this acquisition provided a significant base of 20th-century work. Among the artists represented in the collection are Peter Bentzon, Henry Ossawa Tanner, Edmonia Lewis, James Van Der Zee, Charles White, Archibald Motley, Horace Pippin, Romare Bearden, Jacob Lawrence, Moneta Sleet, Faith Ringgold, Kara Walker, and Julie Mehretu.
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African Art

The Saint Louis Art Museum began collecting African art in 1936, when very few American art museums were doing so. The Museum's first acquisition in this area was a distinguished Benin bronze head. This initial purchase was reinforced during the 1940s by additional purchases of Central and West African art, such as a Fang reliquary figure, Yaka headrest, Widekum mask, and Chokwe chief's chair. Since those early years, the African art collection has grown to include over 1,200 works. More than half the collection is comprised of gifts and bequests from St. Louis businessman and philanthropist Morton D. May (1914-1983). Some highlights from Mr. May's contributions include a Kuba helmet mask, Songye power figure, and Yaka mask.

The collection demonstrates the diversity of artistic expression from across the African continent through an array of genres including masks, figural sculpture, miniatures and adornments in metal, ceramic figures and vessels, and textiles. Some highlights include: a Ligbi mask, Igbo female mask, Fon bocio figure, Yungur effigy pot, and Mende display cloth. Art from West Africa is well represented, with special depth in Yoruba art from southwestern Nigeria, for example: a mother and child figurededicated to the Yoruba god Shango, a double mask for the Gelede Society, and several Egungun masquerade costumes.

Although rich with objects from the 19th and 20th centuries, the collection features chronological depth. The oldest sub-Saharan work is the Nok terracotta head (500BC-200AD). The Museum's collections include works by contemporary African artists, such as El Anatsui, Julie Mehretu, and Seydou Keita.
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American Art

The American art collection features masterworks of paintings and sculpture from Colonial portraiture through the modernist and abstract art of the first half of the 20th century. Highlights of this collection include fine Hudson River School landscapes, Missouri artist George Caleb Bingham's Election Series, and The Panorama of the Monumental Grandeur of the Mississippi Valley (1850), a 348-foot-long, 25-panel painting by John J. Egan. These works offer insight into the ways Americans of earlier times saw themselves and understood their nation as well as the world beyond.

Ancient American Art

The Saint Louis Art Museum has one of the most comprehensive and distinguished collections of Ancient American art in the United States. Spanning vast chronological and spatial ranges, the collection is comprised of more than 4,500 artworks from the Ancient Americas, including North America, Mesoamerica, Central America, and the Andes. The core of the Ancient American collection was developed through formative gifts from J. Lionberger Davis (1878-1973) during the 1950s, followed by gifts and bequests from Morton D. May (1914–1983). Mr. May's contributions comprise more than three-quarters the entire Ancient American collection.

Mesoamerican art comprises more than half of the Ancient American collection, with areas of particular depth from the earliest cultures of Central Mexico and their Teotihuacan and Aztec successors, the Zapotec of Oaxaca, and the Maya. Highlights of Mesoamerican artworks include a Mixteca-Puebla mosaic jaguar pectoral, a Maya vessel illustrating the ballgame, a wooden Aztec figure depicting Chalchihuitlicue, and a set of eighteen Zapotec architectural fragments. The Museum has an extensive collection of ceramics from West Mexico, including a detailed house model from Nayarit and a grouping of dancers and musicians from Colima.

Ancient art from North America is represented by a number of ceramic vessels from the Southwest, including a figurative Mimbres bowl and a large olla from the Ancestral Pueblo. In addition, the Museum has numerous Mississippian artworks, including a female figure ceramic vessel, a shell mask gorget, and a rare ceramic bottle depicting an underwater panther. Click here to explore additional Native North American art at the Museum.

Singular strengths from the Caribbean or Intermediate Area include a wooden Taino ritual seat (duho) and a Calima gold lime dipper. Andean artworks include a Moche fineline bottle, a Chimú silver disc with images of spondylus shells, and a Wari feather mantle.

Ancient Art

The Ancient Art collection features objects from a wide geographic area spanning the Mediterranean basin to Central Asia, with the ancient cultures of Greece, Italy, Iran, Iraq, and Egypt prominently represented. Although the objects in the collection are thousands of years old, they represent a variety of functions that are still relevant today and include drinking vessels, jewelry and perfume containers, religious dedications, and funerary monuments.
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Arms and Armor

The Museum's collection provides a good overview of arms and armor from the 15th through the 18th century. Arms and armor were not only necessary equipment for military figures, but were highly prized objects that personified bravery, chivalry, and skill. They were used in war, for hunting, in sporting competitions such as jousts and foot combats, and as splendid bodily accessories for parades or courtly occasions. The prestigious role of arms and armor meant that artists were often commissioned to transform them into objects of great splendor. Craftsmanship, techniques of fabrication, and ornament link arms and armor to other decorative arts of the 15th through the 18th century.

The current installation in the Museum Level 1 Galleries features more than 50 examples of arms and armor comprising helmets and suits of armor; spears and polearms; swords and daggers; rifles, guns, and pistols. Some highlights of the collection are a 15th century German sallet helmet, a pair of 16th century gilt bronze stirrups from the Habsburg armory, and a 17th century Italian powder tester, which is one of the finest examples known.

Art of the Pacific Islands

The Saint Louis Art Museum began to acquire Pacific, or Oceanic, art during the 1910s. In 1915, St. Louis businessman William K. Bixby offered the Museum a Samoan fan that was reportedly made for famed writer Robert Louis Stevenson. Gifts of Samoan and rare Hawaiian barkcloth followed during the 1940s. Through purchases and generous gifts and bequests from General L. J. Sverdrup in 1952 and from St. Louis businessman Morton D. May during 1975 through 1996, the collection has grown to nearly 700 objects. The collection's historical masks, sculpture, ceremonial shields, textiles, personal adornments, and paintings from Polynesia, Melanesia, Micronesia, and Australia provide insights into the rich artistic expressions and cultural diversity of Pacific Islanders and Indigenous Australians.

Approximately two-thirds of the collection is comprised of gifts and bequests from Mr. May, whose contributions include a figurehead from a Maori fishing canoe, a Fijian breastplate, a Hermit Islands ceremonial paddle, and a New Guinea human-bird figure.

Works from New Guinea are a particular strength of the collection, such as a Gerua board from the Eastern Highlands, a male Telum figure from Astrolabe Bay, and a Mendi kina shell from the Western Highlands. Notable Island Melanesian objects include a malagan image of a wreathed hornbill and drum from New Ireland, a ritual shield from Bougainville, and two Massim lime spatula finials. Important Polynesian works include a Maori canoe sternpost and a figure from the Hawaiian Islands with a particularly early provenance.

Oceanic art greatly influenced European artists. For example, Paul Gauguin and Emil Nolde visited the Pacific in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and created paintings in the Museum's collection that demonstrate the influence of Oceanic art, cultures, and landscapes on their work.
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Asian Art

○ The Museum's Asian collection comprises fine works from East, Central, Southeast, and South Asia with strengths in ancient and later Chinese bronzes, Buddhist sculpture, calligraphy and painting, ceramics, and decorative arts. In addition, the Museum has an excellent representation of Japanese lacquer, calligraphy, painting, folding screens, and South Asian sculptures.

Contemporary Art

The Contemporary collection spans the post-World War II period until today. Particular strengths are postwar American art and rich holdings in postwar German art. Acquisitions of art made in the past two decades, including video, mixed media, and installation, reflect the growing dynamism and international nature of contemporary art. Additionally, the collection extends beyond the Museum walls, featuring a 2004 commission by Roxy Paine and the 2012 commission by Andy Goldsworthy, Stone Sea, which celebrates the expansion of the Museum.
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Decorative Arts and Design

The Decorative Arts and Design collection comprises European and American furniture, ceramics, glass, metalwork, textiles, arms and armor, and architectural elements from the Renaissance to the present day. Collection strengths include 18th-century European ceramics and silver, 19th-century American decorative arts, and modern and contemporary design.

European Art

European Art includes painting, sculpture, and metalwork made in Europe and the British Isles between the 7th and 18th centuries. Highlights from the earlier centuries include a French sculpture of St. Christopher, a Head of St. Roch, and a 12th-century German gilded figure of Christ. Later highlights include the only major portrait by Hans Holbein in an American collection; a late Titian; a sixteenth-century marble figure of the god Pan made in Michelangelo's workshop; and a painting on copper by Artemesia Gentileschi, a major female artist of the Baroque age.

European Paintings Provenance Project

The history of ownership, or provenance, of works of art has always been an integral part of scholarship at the Saint Louis Art Museum. The Museum conducts intense scrutinization of the provenance of every work that enters the collection. The Museum also continually researches the works already in its collection. Provenance research can be lengthy, complex, and difficult to confirm in every detail. Research involves reviewing Museum object files and archives and examining the works for inscriptions, labels, and marks. In addition, archival materials such as collector and dealer records often need to be located and consulted.

Following the guidelines set forth by the American Association of Museums (AAM) in April 2001, the European Provenance Disclosure Project identifies and provides up-to-date information on all European paintings in the Museum's collection that may have been purchased, sold, or created during the Nazi era. From the time they came into power in 1933 through the end of World War II in 1945, the Nazis conducted a massive confiscation of art and cultural property throughout Europe. In the post-war years, many works were returned to their rightful owners or heirs, but others had already entered new collections by way of the international art market. In recent years, along with museums around the world, the Saint Louis Art Museum has strengthened its efforts to confirm, expand, and clarify the history of ownership for these works.

The Saint Louis Art Museum thanks the galleries, museums, auction houses, dealers, archives, and individuals who have assisted with this research. Every piece of information is a valuable contribution to the history of a work of art. The Museum welcomes additional information and invites inquiries at provenance@slam.org.
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Islamic Art

The Museum's collection of Islamic art is represented by a selective group of ceramics, metalwork, glass, manuscripts, and textiles from Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Egypt, Syria, Spain, Italy, Turkey, the Caucasus, Afghanistan, India, and Pakistan. Highlights include Iznik ceramics and tiles, Mughal and Persian manuscripts, and the Ballard Collection of rugs.

Modern Art

The Museum's collection of modern European art is one of the largest and most distinguished components of its holdings, spanning 150 years of European painting and sculpture (1800-1950). Highlights include French Impressionist and post-Impressionist masterworks, German Expressionist masterpieces, and the largest public collection of paintings in the world by Max Beckmann.

Around 160 works are on view in 13 galleries which move chronologically from early 19th-century Romanticism through to mid-20th-century Surrealism and abstraction. Within this chronology, galleries are arranged thematically around genres such as landscape, portraiture, the body, and still life. The centerpiece of the installation is a large gallery devoted to the work of Beckmann. Also on view are major Impressionist paintings including Monet's Water Lilies and five works by Vincent van Gogh. The installation also contains Matisse's masterpiece, Bathers with a Turtle, many German Expressionist masterworks, and five pictures by Pablo Picasso.

The modern European art collection is particularly indebted to gifts from two St Louis businessmen and philanthropists: Morton D. May, and Joseph Pulitzer, Jr.

Native American Art

The Saint Louis Art Museum has collected Native North American art since the first decades of the 20th century. Among the Museum's earliest acquisitions of Native American art were gifts received during the 1920s, which included several California baskets and a Chilkat dance apron. Over the next several decades, the collection built strengths in Native arts from the Northwest Coast, Arctic, Plains, and Southwest through Museum purchases and the generosity of many individual donors. The Museum's new strength in Plains art results from the important gift of the Donald Danforth Jr. Collection.

The Native American art collection now encompasses almost 700 objects that span prehistoric, historic, and contemporary periods. Click here to explore ancient art from North America at the Museum. Long celebrated as hallmarks of the collection, singular works from the Northwest Coast and Arctic include a Haida shaman figure by the artist Simeon Stilthda, a Kwakwaka'wakw (Kwakiutl) potlatch copper, Dzunukwa mask, and a Yup'ik mask. The Museum has collected works by contemporary Native artists since the 1970s, including prints and photographs by Fritz Scholder, Mark Henderson, and Wendy Red Star.

Since 2010, the Donald Danforth Jr. Collection has transformed the Museum's holdings of Native North American art by expanding the depth and presence of late 19th-century art from the Plains. Personal arts greatly characterize the Danforth Collection. These include an array of moccasins, pipe bags, assorted bags, pouches and cases, jewelry, children's items, and horse regalia, most composed of hide adorned with beadwork and quillwork in many patterns and colors. Some highlights include: Lakota/Dakota (Sioux) moccasins and pipe bags, a Transmontane parfleche, and an Apsáalooke (Crow) model cradle and martingale. Selections from the Danforth Collection can be seen in the dedicated Donald Danforth Jr. Gallery, which opened in summer 2012 as part of the Museum's expansion.

The Museum collaborates with contemporary Native artists to present the collection in relation to indigenous ways of seeing. Painter Dyani White Hawk visited the Museum and then traveled to the Rosebud and Pine Ridge Reservations in South Dakota to interview cultural specialists and tribal elders. Dyani White Hawk has curated an installation of Lakota art in Gallery 322 inspired by these experiences. These works were installed in July 2017 and will be on view for two years.

Photographs

The photography collection consists of almost 3000 works, spanning the history of the medium from 1844 until the present. The Museum started seriously collecting photography in the 1970s, but the first group of work to be acquired came directly from Ansel Adams, who visited St. Louis in 1945. There are strengths in 20th-century American and German, and large individual holdings of prints by Edward Curtis, Paul Strand, Andreas Feininger, Brett Weston, Moneta Sleet Jr, and Nicolas Nixon. Important works in the collection include Ansel Adams' nature study, Pine Forest in Snow, Yosemite National Park (1933), Lazlo Moholy-Nagy's unique photogram, Abstraction (1925), Tina Barney's environmental portrait, Father and Sons (1996) and Andreas Gursky's monumental Library (1999).

Works on paper are exhibited on a rotating basis and can also be viewed by appointment in the Study Room for Prints, Drawings, and Photographs. The Friends of Photography provides Museum members with opportunities to study the photographic collection and enrich their knowledge of the field through such events as private exhibition tours and artist presentations.
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Prints and Drawings

The collection of prints and drawings spans the history of European and American works of art on paper from the 15th century to the present and covers a wide variety of media, from manuscript illumination to digital prints. Highlights include significant holdings by Albrecht Dürer, Rembrandt van Rijn, George Caleb Bingham, and Max Beckmann. There are also strong holdings of prints and drawings by post-war American and German artists such as Roy Lichtenstein, Louise Bourgeois, Sigmar Polke, and Gerhard Richter.

Works on paper are exhibited on a rotating basis and can also be viewed by appointment in the Study Room for Prints, Drawings, and Photographs.
Comprising approximately 3500 textiles, the collection holds textile arts from a broad range of world cultures and time periods. The earliest works date to Byzantine Egypt and Ancient America. The collection also includes works from present-day fiber artists. Among the strengths are Turkish carpets, Mediterranean embroideries, English embroideries, Guatemalan textiles, and American quilts.