Fenimore Art Museum

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Fenimore Art Museum
Fenimore Art Museum, front elevation.jpg
The Fenimore Art Museum building, seen in July, 2014
Established 1899
Location Cooperstown, New York
Coordinates 42°42′56.4″N 074°55′37″W / 42.715667°N 74.92694°W / 42.715667; -74.92694
Type Art museum
President Dr. Paul D’Ambrosio
Website www.fenimoreartmuseum.org

The Fenimore Art Museum (formerly known as Fenimore House Museum) is a museum located in Cooperstown, New York, USA, operating under the auspices of the New York State Historical Association. It presents changing and permanent exhibitions of American Folk Art, North American Indian art and artifacts, Hudson River School and 19th-century genre paintings, and American photography.

The Museum was moved to its present location — Cooperstown, New York overlooking Lake Otsego — in 1939 due to a gift from Stephen Carlton Clark. Much of the American Fine Art Collection was donated by Clark, a generous art connoisseur.

The museum also has a great deal of material associated with James Fenimore Cooper, Cooperstown’s most famous native son, and his family. This includes furniture, portraits and paintings, personal effects and books owned by Cooper, as well as manuscripts and first editions of his writings.

The Fenimore Art Museum is closely associated with The Farmers' Museum, also in Cooperstown.


Fenimore Art Museum’s parent organization, the New York State Historical Association, was founded in 1899 by five New Yorkers interested in promoting a greater knowledge of the early history of the state. They hoped to encourage original research, to educate general audiences by means of lectures and publications, to mark places of historic interest, and to establish a library and museum to hold manuscripts, paintings, and objects associated with New York State. From 1926 until 1939, the Association’s headquarters was in Ticonderoga, New York in a facsimile of John Hancock’s house in Boston.

In 1939, Stephen Carlton Clark offered the Association a new home in the village of Cooperstown. Clark took an active interest in expanding the holdings and turned over Fenimore House, one of his family’s properties as a new headquarters and museum. The collections and programs continued to expand and a separate library building was constructed in 1968. In 1995, an 18,000-square-foot (1,700 m2) wing was added to Fenimore House to hold the Eugene and Clare Thaw Collection, one of the nation’s premier collections of American Indian art.

Fine Art[edit]

The American paintings in the Fenimore Art Museum’s collection were largely assembled by Stephen Carlton Clark between 1938 and 1960. Clark purchased 18th- and 19th-century landscapes, genre paintings, and portraits that represented the history of New York State, but because of the artists’ stature, reflect early American culture in general. Artists represented in the Fenimore Art Museum's fine art collection include William Sidney Mount, Thomas Cole, Asher B. Durand, Benjamin West, Gilbert Stuart, and Eastman Johnson.

The museum also features a collection of "life masks" by John Henri Isaac Browere that were cast from the faces of famous Americans. The masks include Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, John Quincy Adams, DeWitt Clinton, and Dolley Madison.

The photography collection includes over 120,000 examples with holdings of both professional and amateur photographers from the 19th century.

Folk art[edit]

Stephen C. Clark’s major purchases of private collections such as those of modernist sculptor Elie Nadelman and the pioneering collector and author Jean Lipman form the collection’s core. Artists include Edward Hicks, William Matthew Prior, Ammi Phillips, Thomas Chambers, John Brewster, Jr., and Eunice Pinney. The museum’s 20th-century folk art holdings have grown gradually, spurred on by major gifts such as two Grandma Moses landscapes in 1967 and purchases like Ralph Fasanella’s Dress Shop in 1983. In recent years, works by 20th-century folk artists Queena Stovall and Mario Sanchez have been added to the collecion.

Thaw Collection of American Indian Art[edit]

Eugene and Clare Thaw Collection of American Indian Art

In 1995, the Fenimore Art Museum embarked upon a new era with the addition of a spectacular new American Indian Wing designed to house the extraordinary gift from Eugene and Clare Thaw of their collection of American Indian art. The collection has continued to grow as new objects are added by the Thaws and other donors, and today numbers almost 850 objects. Each new object reaffirms the Thaws’ commitment to the beauty and artistry of American Indian art, and thus strengthens the philosophical foundation of the collection: that the aesthetic power of American Indian art is equivalent to that from any culture.

The collection can be seen in changing galleries and in the Study Center, an open storage space. Since acquiring the Thaw collection, the Fenimore Art Museum has reached new audiences by touring exhibitions, hosting symposiums, publishing new research, and collaborating with American Indian curators and specialists for museum programs and exhibitions.

External links[edit]