Campus Collections


The Campus Collections include dozens of sculptures, paintings, monuments, and memorials important to the University’s rich history and its singular traditions. One segment of the Campus Collections, the Princeton Portraits, is a collection of more than 600 paintings and sculptures, predominantly likenesses of important Princetonians as well as non-portrait works that relate to the history of the University. The Princeton Portraits span centuries and encompass enormously varying styles and subjects, including Charles Willson Peale’s landmark portrait of George Washington at the Battle of Princeton (1783), commissioned with funds given by Washington himself. Other highlights include a remarkable sequence of dinosaur paintings by the Victorian artist and naturalist Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins, commissioned in 1876 by then University President James McCosh as a progressive response to Darwin’s theories. 

Perhaps the most celebrated works in the Campus Collections belong to the John B. Putnam Jr. Memorial Collection of outdoor sculpture, distributed across the University campus. Comprising 22 sculptures by master artists of the 20th and 21st centuries, the Putnam Collection is the result of a generous gift of funds in the 1960s by an anonymous donor as a memorial to a Princeton alumnus killed in World War II. Commonly regarded as one of the greatest single collections of public art, the Putnam Collection can be thought of as a plein-air lesson in art history by many of the great masters of the modern canon. Highlights include Sir Henry Moore’s cast bronze organic abstraction Oval with Points (1969–70), thought to have been inspired by the undulating surface of an elephant skull given to the artist by the distinguished scientist Sir Julian Huxley, and Alexander Calder’s steel stabile Five Disks: One Empty (1969–70). The work was painted in Princeton’s collegiate colors of orange and black when installed, but the orange disks were blackened after Calder saw his piece on-site, evidently with some displeasure—orange did not routinely figure as part of the artist’s palette. The Putnam Collection is not a static phenomenon, and work is underway to identify and purchase or commission works by artists who can be considered the masters of our own time, so that the collection continues to reflect the evolution of artistic practices. 

Campus Art Initiative: Overview and Guidelines

Campus Art Process

Major New Sculpture Commissioned for Museum Entrance

The Museum’s front lawn has been home to a number of compelling works of art, from Pablo Picasso’s Head of a Woman to Magdalena Abakanowicz’s Big Figures to such short-term installations as Doug Aitken’s migration (empire) and, most recently, two remarkable sculptures by Alexander Calder. Now the lawn is poised to receive a new commission designed especially for the site by Doug and Mike Starn.

Antioch through the Ages

Antioch-on-the-Orontes (modern Antakya, Turkey) was one of the great cities of the Hellenistic and Roman worlds and remained an important center through the Byzantine, Seljuk, Crusader, and Ottoman periods. From 1932 to 1939, an archaeological expedition to Antioch by a consortium of institutions, including Princeton University, produced a remarkable wealth of excavated finds that opened novel vistas onto a city that played a fundamental role in the shaping of politics and cultures in the Greek and Roman East for more than a millennium. Princeton University was given possession of a portion of the finds from the excavations, including the many Roman mosaic pavements now displayed in the Art Museum, McCormick Hall, Firestone Library, and the School of Architecture.

Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads

The Princeton University Art Museum installed 12 monumental sculptures—Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads—by the renowned contemporary Chinese artist, architectural designer, curator, and social activist Ai Weiwei.

Nassau Hall Faculty Room Video

This video allows visitors the unique opportunity to see inside the Faculty Room in Nassau Hall and to discover the room’s remarkable history, including its program of portraits depicting University founders and past presidents.

Lisa Arcomano

Manager of Campus Collections

A graduate in art history from the University of Chicago (MA), Barnard College (BA) and fine arts major at Cornell University, Lisa Arcomano joined the staff at the Art Museum in 2008. Prior to working at Princeton, the last three positions she held were all Museum and/or program start-ups: Manager of Collections and Exhibitions, Rubin Museum of Art (RMA), New York; Associate Director for the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum Research Center, Santa Fe; and Exhibitions Coordinator at the Bard Graduate Center: Decorative Arts, Design History, Material Culture in New York.