The American holdings at the Cleveland Museum of Art rank among the finest anywhere.
One year prior to its opening to the public in 1916, the Cleveland Museum of Art purchased its first painting, John Singleton Copley's Portrait of Catherine Greene, thereby launching a commitment to collecting superior examples of American art. Since then, the museum has acquired nearly 300 American paintings and approximately 90 sculptures, constituting an excellent survey from around 1750 to 1960. The museum's historic preference for quality over quantity—a philosophy devoted to acquiring a small number of major works by important artists—has kept the collection particularly well balanced and concise.
The two greatest cores of its strength are a superb group of Hudson River School landscapes and a stunning selection of rugged realist paintings from Winslow Homer through the Ashcan School to Edward Hopper. The collection includes such landmarks of American art as William Sidney Mount's The Power of Music, Frederic Edwin Church's Twilight in the Wilderness, Albert Pinkham Ryder's The Racetrack (Death on a Pale Horse), and George Bellows's Stag at Sharkey's. The department's holdings also include approximately 100 works by Cleveland artists, a gathering that exemplifies the vital role the museum has played within the local art community. In addition, the museum houses a choice collection of American decorative arts, prints, drawings, photographs, and textiles, which are under the purview of their respective departments classified by media.