American Art

American Art

While American art has been collected by the Museum since its inception, the art of this nation was first acquired in earnest during the pioneering directorship of Frank Jewett Mather Jr. (1922–1946), at a time when few institutions accorded it significance. As a result, Princeton’s collection of historical American art is among the finest of any academic museum. Long focused on painting and sculpture, the collection is particularly strong in portraiture, augmented by the University’s own distinguished collection of individuals affiliated with the institution, and landscape painting, the product of noteworthy gifts of Hudson River School and later canvases by several, mostly alumni, collectors.

Much of the esteemed Boudinot Collection of largely 18th-century fine and decorative art associated with that historic family is displayed nearby at Morven Museum and Garden, the Princeton seat of the related Stockton family. Folk art offers another area of distinction, due substantially to the donation of alumnus Edward Duff Balken’s important collection of such material. 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.

The American Portrait interactive explores John Singleton Copley’s portrait of Elkanah Watson.

Karl Kusserow

John Wilmerding Curator of American Art

Karl Kusserow joined the Museum in 2006 and was appointed its inaugural John Wilmerding Curator of American Art in 2013. His exhibitions and associated publications include Inner Sanctum: Memory and Meaning in Princeton's Faculty Room at Nassau Hall (2010) and Picturing Power: Portraiture and its Uses in the New York Chamber of Commerce (2013), as well as an edited volume of essays on early American art at Princeton (Princeton University Art Museum Record 70 [2011]). He recently co-organized with Alan C. Braddock Nature’s Nation: American Art and Environment (2018), a traveling exhibition reexamining 18th-21st-century American art in relation to issues of ecology and environmental history, and is currently preparing a related volume, Picture Ecology: Art and Ecocriticism in Planetary Perspective, for publication, in addition to a catalogue of Princeton’s American paintings and sculpture. He attended Wesleyan University and received his Ph.D. from Yale University.