Bowdoin College Museum of Art

Elihu Vedder. Natura: detail of head. c. 1893. Pastel, crayon, and graphite on paper. Image and original data provided by Bowdoin College Museum of Art.

The Bowdoin College Museum of Art has contributed 3,600 images to the Artstor Digital Library. The selection reflects the breadth of the collection—ancient through contemporary western art, Asian and African holdings, numismatics, and a deep trove of works on paper.

The collection is inclusive with depth and quality in a number of curatorial areas: Assyrian, Egyptian, Greek, Roman, and Byzantine antiquities comprise one of the finest selections of any small American college museum; in European paintings, the early gifts of founder James Bowdoin III and a dozen works from the Kress Foundation provide the historic base for a selection that includes modern material; among several thousand prints and drawings, the inventory includes artists from Rembrandt to Warhol; the American collection holds an important group of Colonial and Federal portraits, with the famous likenesses of Presidents Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, the murals decorating the Museum’s rotunda by the four leading painters of the American Renaissance: Elihu Vedder, Kenyon Cox, Abbott Thayer, and John LaFarge, and the work of other prominent nineteenth and twentieth century artists; non-western collections highlight the arts of Japan, China, Korea, and Southeast Asia, as well as holdings of African, Pacific, Pre-Columbian, and Native American artifacts. The museum currently holds more than 20,000 objects and works of art.

In 1794, James Bowdoin III (1752-1811) established Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine in the name of his father, James Bowdoin II, who had served as governor of Massachusetts. In 1811, the collection of the Bowdoin College Museum of Art was established with the bequest of Bowdoin III, who was one of America’s pioneering collectors, and included an extensive library, seventy European paintings and approximately 140 drawings.

The Museum’s landmark Walker Art Building was commissioned for the College by the sisters Harriet and Sophia Walker. Designed by Charles Follen McKim of McKim, Mead, and White, it was completed in 1894. A recent renovation has expanded the facility.

The Museum, open to the public at no charge, is a teaching facility, with a mission to keep the collections within immediate reach of Bowdoin students, faculty, scholars, and art lovers.