Explore Art \\ Collection
Rooted in Essex County, PEM’s American art collection tells stories of life across the United States.
PEM’s American Art collection is renowned for its expansive holdings of decorative arts and paintings that span four centuries of creative expression in the United States. Supported by historic works that celebrate the rich and diverse artistic and cultural heritage of Essex County, Massachusetts, the collection has continued to grow to embrace a broader representation of the art of this country. Together, these objects tell compelling stories of American life and the ongoing cultural exchanges between the people of the region, the country, and the wider world.
From its founding, the Essex Institute placed emphasis on collecting historical documents and portraits of prominent local figures, such as battle commander Sir William Pepperrell, whose monumental portrait by John Smibert arrived in Salem from Maine in 1821 on top of a stagecoach. The cornerstone of the institute’s portrait collection, it numbers among the museum’s some eight hundred likenesses in a variety of mediums by masters such as John Singleton Copley, John Singer Sargent and Salem’s Frank Weston Benson, as well as American artists working abroad.
Explore some highlights from the collection