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The de Young’s holdings of American art include more than 1,000 paintings spanning from the 17th century to the present. The paintings collections commenced during the early years of both the de Young (founded 1895) and the Legion of Honor (founded 1924), and were merged in the first American art galleries at the de Young in 1977. The collection achieved national stature with the acquisition of the John D. Rockefeller III Collection; his bequest of 1979 combined with his wife Blanchette’s bequest in 1993 totaled 110 paintings, and comprised the Fine Arts Museums’ single most important gift of art.
The American painting collection includes major works by John Singleton Copley, Thomas Cole, George Caleb Bingham, Frederic E. Church, Albert Bierstadt, George Inness, Mary Cassatt, Thomas Anshutz, William Michael Harnett, Diego Rivera, Georgia O’Keefe, Chiura Obata, John Marin, Thomas Hart Benton, Grant Wood, Aaron Douglas, Jacob Lawrence, Edward Hopper, Mark Rothko, Willem de Kooning, Robert Motherwell, Richard Diebenkorn, Morris Louis, Larry Rivers, Wayne Thiebaud, and Frank Stella. Of special interest are Bingham’s Boatmen on the Missouri (1846), Church’s Rainy Season in the Tropics (1866), Bierstadt’s California Spring (1875), Anshutz’s Ironworkers’ Noontime (1880), Harnett’s After the Hunt (1885), and Wood’s Dinner for Threshers (1934).
The Katharine Hanrahan American Art Study Center and the Smithsonian Institution’s Archives of American Art microfilm collection are both available to researchers with a specific focus of study by appointment only.