American Art

American Art

While American art has been collected by Princeton University since shortly after its inception in 1746, the art of this nation was first acquired in earnest during the pioneering Museum directorship of Frank Jewett Mather Jr. (1922–1946), when few institutions accorded it significance. Long focused primarily on painting and works on paper, the collection is particularly strong in portraiture, augmented by the University’s collection of portraits related to the institution, and landscape painting. The Boudinot Collection of fine and decorative art associated with that historic local family, as well as folk art, largely the gift of a prominent early collector, add further areas of distinction. Recent emphasis has been placed on expanding the presence of art by underrepresented groups. New acquisitions, enhanced by the institution of a dedicated fund for the purchase of American works, have recently included notable African American, modernist, still life, marine, and genre paintings, as well as works of decorative art.

Museum collections additionally include extensive and outstanding examples of art of the ancient American past as well as Native American arts from more recent times.

Karl Kusserow

John Wilmerding Curator of American Art

Karl Kusserow received his PhD from Yale University and joined the Museum in 2006 as its inaugural curator of American art. His exhibitions and associated publications include Inner Sanctum: Memory and Meaning in Princeton’s Faculty Room at Nassau Hall (2010) and the award-winning Picturing Power: Portraiture and Its Uses in the New York Chamber of Commerce (2013), as well as edited volumes of essays on American and other art at Princeton (the Record, Volumes 70 [2011] and 81 [2024]). In 2018 he co-organized Nature’s Nation: American Art and Environment, a traveling exhibition reexamining eighteenth–twenty-first-century American art in relation to issues of ecology and environmental history. Its catalogue received the Alfred H. Barr Jr. Award from the College Art Association, the PROSE Award for art exhibitions from the Association of American Publishers, and an Award of Excellence from the Association of Art Museum Curators. He recently edited Picture Ecology: Art and Ecocriticism in Planetary Perspective (2021) and organized Object Lessons in American Art (2023). Kusserow is currently writing an ecocritical study of representations of the moon, the subject of the 2022 Franklin D. Murphy Lectures at the University of Kansas. He is Associated Faculty at Princeton’s High Meadows Environmental Institute and periodically Lecturer in the Department of Art & Archaeology.