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Home » ARTS AND CULTURE » MASSACHUSETTS » Art of the Americas
Art of the Americas

A Tour of the New Wing of Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts

By Erin Long | April 14, 2011

The Shapiro Family Courtyard in the new Art of the Americas Wing at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts is a gallery in itself—a testament to the technology and design that governs our everyday lives.

The courtyard houses the New American Café, where patrons sit at sleek tables, sip coffee, browse their smart phones, and gaze up at the ceiling that rises three stories high, all of which appears fitting to the minimalistic, sharp design of modern day America. The light-filled expanse also serves as the portal to the four floors that make up the new wing and serve as a time capsule of America’s art.

The tour begins down the stairs on the lower ground level with the art of the ancients, the Native peoples, and explorers of the sea from the first millennium BCE to the seventeenth century. The art housed here depicts the youth of the Americas, when the people and their cultures revolved around the topography of the land, the endless horizon of the sea, and the sacred forms of life that inhabited both planes. Among the most impressive pieces are the Mesoamerica burial urns, Aztec gold jewelry, and Peruvian textiles.

The level also houses a gallery dedicated to the age of the sail, the sea, and trade. The 1829 panoramic painting of The British Fleet Forming a Line off Algiers by Robert Salmon captures the dramatic spirit of age of exploration that began a new chapter in American history.

As visitors enter the central gallery of Level 1, which houses art of colonial period, they are immediately greeted with the iconic image of one its most famous patriots—Paul Revere. Rendered in silky and fluid oil, he looks contemplative while holding a silver teapot indicating his trade as a silversmith. Some of his actual silverwork can be found in the surrounding glass cases, encouraging the viewer to see Revere not only as a contributor to the American Revolution, but also to the artistic achievement of the time.

The portrait is just one of the many famous oil paintings by the artist John Singleton Copley, (the namesake of Copley Square in downtown Boston) in the MFA’s new wing. Adjacent to the first floor’s central gallery are more portraits of Samuel Adams, John Hancock, and Nicholas Boylston all circling his masterpiece—the macabre rendering of Watson and the Shark.

Also on this level, visitors will also be impressed by the colossal 1819 The Passage of the Delaware by Thomas Sully as well as unfinished portraits of George and Martha Washington by Gilbert Stuart.

Level 2 houses nineteenth century and early twentieth century art, showcasing the eras of American Impressionism, Neoclassicism, American Realism, and folk art. The central gallery is devoted to John Singer Sargent, the focal point being his 1882 oil painting The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit, which is flanked by two Japanese vases. Behind the Sargent gallery, visitors can also view two period, salon-style rooms heavily adorned with paintings in lavish gold frames pieced together, from floor to ceiling, like parts of a puzzle.

The last tier of the Art of the Americas Wing houses twentieth-century art through the mid-1970s. Here the viewer can witness the effects that modernity, developing industries, and world wars had on the artists and their works.

Visitors can view Jackson Pollock’s Troubled Queen, which was a stepping stone for the artist’s famous drip paintings. Also striking are the massive multi-colored fluorescent-polymer canvas by the minimalist Frank Stella and several paintings by American modernist Georgia O’Keefe, including some of her celebrated flower paintings.

The forms, colors, and perspectives in these works are unique to American art and had never been explored in the art epicenters of Europe. It is because of these artists and these movements that America finally earned its well-deserved, well-respected role in the larger art world.

The Art of the Americas Wing offers a joyous and well-organized celebration of the major movements and principles that have governed America’s artists since before recorded history. It is a proud addition to the art world, to the museum, and to the city of Boston.


Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

465 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA 02115-5597

(617) 267-9300


Opening Hours:

Sat - Tue: 10AM - 4:45PM Wed - Fri: 10AM - 9.45PM

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