Renaissance + Baroque

Jan Molenaer: Card Players, about 1635

Dutch, about 1610–1668

an interior of a tavern with men and women playing cards dressed in 17th century costume, one man looks out to the viewer with a smile

Jan Molenaer
Dutch, about 1610–1668
Card Players, about 1635
oil on panel, 22 3/4 x 29 1/16 in. (58 x 74 cm)
Gift of David Giles Carter and Museum Purchase, 2001.21

more from Renaissance + Baroque

The Currier Museum has a rich collection of European painting and sculpture from the 14th to the 17th centuries, representing the Middle Ages, Renaissance, and Baroque eras. Gerini’s altarpiece is exceptional for being in near perfect state of preservation and demonstrates how early Renaissance artists emphasized the spiritual holiness of Christ and the Virgin. Just over a century later, artistic goals had changed. Now painters like Joos van Cleve and sculptors like Benedetto da Maiano accentuated the human qualities of holy figures. Heroic figures from ancient Greece and Rome that were being unearthed in the Renaissance profoundly influenced artists like Montorsoli and Cosini, both assistants to Michelangelo.

In Italy and Spain, 17th-century Baroque art continued to be influenced by religion, but artists gave their works greater emotion and drama. Painters like Mattia Preti and Matthias Stom focused on the most dramatic, consequential, and climatic moment of the narrative. The powerful gestures and theatrical lighting enhance the emotive power of their message of faith and the promise of eternal life.

In much of northern Europe, Protestantism was the dominant religion in the 17th century and art in those regions took a different course. When churches were converted from Catholicism to Protestantism, their art and decorations were stripped away. In general, explicit paintings of Christ and the Virgin were elided. Art in the Netherlands flourished to an unprecedented degree, with the vast majority of collectors being individuals; even modest household had a few paintings. These new collectors sought a variety of paintings for their homes, such as comic paintings like Molenaer’s Card Players, smaller scale landscapes of familiar places (Jacob van Ruisdael), and still lifes composed of everyday household objects (Balthasar van der Ast).

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Please note that only a small fraction of the collection is on view at a given time, and the galleries are rotated often. If you want to know if a specific work is currently on view, please write or call ahead.

19th century

Nineteenth-century art in Europe and the Americas evolved in relative sync. Neoclassism, which was the overriding style around 1800, is represented in the Currier Museum’s collection historical narrative paintings (Bernard Duvivier), formal portraits (Louis Gauffier; Hiram Powers) and decorative arts (Boston and Sandwich Glass Company; Piranesi table). The style of these works was inspired by the excavations at the ancient Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum, which had been buried since the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79.

The development of Romanticism, which was in opposition to rigorously ordered Neoclassicism, is expressed in the landscape paintings of John Constable, Thomas Cole, Jasper Cropsey, and Frederick Church. Romantic artists stressed the sublime and the uncontrollable power of nature, its unpredictability and extremes. The related movement of Orientalism, in which artists explored cultures and peoples they believed to be exotic and unfamiliar, is represented in the collection by artists such as Jean-Léon Gérôme.

Realism in Europe and the United States was manifest primarily in portraiture and genre. A French term, genre is used to refer to scenes of lower- and middle-class characters that were often humorous and didactic or moralizing. Artists such as Lilly Martin Spencer cast a critical eye on domestic life from a personalized perspective. In paintings by Charles Caleb Ward and others, labor is a common metaphor for the virtue of industry, yet the artist also included a secondary message; the importance of cooperation as a key element in securing prosperity and domestic harmony.

The Impressionist movement dominated the last quarter of the century and remained prevalent well into the early 20th century. The Currier Museum’s collection includes an important transitional painting by the most influential artist of this period, Claude Monet. Executed five years before the term Impressionism was coined, Bridge at Bougival signaled a new era in his art, and by extension, of those whom he would influence, in which outdoors, or plein-air, painting took precedence. The artist’s keen interest in the transformative effects of natural light were exhaustively explored. All the features of the composition are built up from short, broken brushstrokes that transform the canvas into a flickering surface of light and shadow, which would later become a defining characteristic of Impressionism. Monet’s style would influence a generation of American artists, including Childe Hassam and Edmund Tarbell.

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Please note that only a small fraction of the collection is on view at a given time, and the galleries are rotated often. If you want to know if a specific work is currently on view, please write or call ahead.


The 20th century gave rise to numerous artistic styles that challenged the traditional aesthetics of previous eras. During the first half of the century, many artists sought ways to address the anxieties of contemporary society, which were fueled by World War, pandemic, and economic turmoil. Many artists adopted expressionistic techniques such as an unnaturalistic palette, elaborately patterned surfaces, gestural brushwork, and abstracted forms and figures. Embracing such styles, German artist Max Pechstein addresses his concern over the impact of industrialization on modern society and the environment in his double-sided canvas. Picasso depicts a cubist figure in a shallow, almost claustrophobic space, expressing his anxiety about living in Nazi-occupied Paris.

Common among many of these new styles was the exploration of a non-objective art. A younger generation of artists in the 1950s rejected representational art as a means of expression. Instead, they looked inward for inspiration, channeling their emotions and intellect into an abstract art form. Works by Abstract Expressionist artists like Joan Mitchell, Hyman Bloom, and Adolph Gotttlieb emphasize personal expression and feature a more gestural painting style, while analytic works such as Joseph Albers’s explore optics and dimensionality through more precise painting techniques. These artists ushered in the next phase of post-modern art and remained influential for decades to come.

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Please note that only a small fraction of the collection is on view at a given time, and the galleries are rotated often. If you want to know if a specific work is currently on view, please write or call ahead.


Contemporary art can perhaps only be defined as being the art of our time, produced by the most immediate generations of artists. The tremendous range of styles and movements that proliferated in the past several decades are too numerous to summarize, and an increasingly globalized society has largely undone the notion that art can be effectively categorized by its place of origin. Traditional forms of art have been reimagined, and artists create work that blurs the boundaries between painting, sculpture, and craft. Newer techniques for making art arose, such as assemblage (sculpting with found objects), performance, conceptual, and digital art. As such, the contemporary artwork in the Currier Museum’s collection ranges from more familiar artforms like painting and sculpture to found objects and computer software.

Following the Second World War, the dominant mode of abstract painting persisted, spawning many forms. The legacy of action painting and expressionist abstraction was solidified and continued by collection artists such as Americans Elaine de Kooning and Norman Lewis, and Canadian artists Paul-Émile Borduas and Jean-Paul Riopelle. In the 1960s and onward, artists such as Sam Gilliam transformed abstract painting by removing the canvas from the stretcher, while minimalist painter Frank Stella skirted the traditionally rectangular painting frame in favor of shaped canvases. Artists like Marisol embraced found objects as the materials for their mixed media sculptures. Other artists reacted to the dominance of abstraction by producing representational work, such as the Pop artists (including Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg, and Robert Indiana) and the Photorealists (such as Richard Estes and James Aponovich).

Contemporary artists have responded to the countless global movements seeking to establish equal rights for groups marginalized for their race, religion, socioeconomic status, indigeneity, gender expression, sexual orientation, and other reasons. Some have created work that responds in a personal, intimate way, while others comment on the broader political context. A few of these many artists included in the museum’s collection include Ana Mendieta, Glenn Ligon, Fred Wilson, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, and Carrie Mae Weems.

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Please note that only a small fraction of the collection is on view at a given time, and the galleries are rotated often. If you want to know if a specific work is currently on view, please write or call ahead.

Ceramics + Decorative Arts

The Currier Museum’s ceramic and decorative arts illustrate a plurality of artistic styles and movements from Europe and the United States, with special strengths in ceramics, furniture, and glass. The ceramic collection includes work by first generation studio potters Bernard Leach, Shoji Hamada, Lucie Rie, and Hans Coper. The museum’s non-functional ceramic objects include abstract sculptural pieces by Peter Voulkos, Robert Turner, and Toshiko Takaezu, as well as representational work by Michael Lucero and Marilyn Levine. Historic pieces in the collection include an 18th-century painted terracotta sculpture of a twisting Baccante figure and a very rare yellow marble crucifixion sculpture by Giovanni Battista Foggini, which is the earliest decorative arts object in the collection. The museum’s collection of historic furniture from New England includes exceptional pieces by Junkins and Senter and Samuel Dunlap. The collection also features several examples of contemporary American studio furniture by artists such as Jon Brooks, Jere Osgood, Terry Moore, David Lamb, Sam Maloof, Vivian Beer, and Judy McKie. The furniture of historic Europe represented by a rare table designed by Piranesi and a French 18th-century wall clock of exceptional quality. The Currier Museum is also known for its extensive collection glass paperweights, which is of exceptional quality and represents the major 19th- and 20th-century American and French makers. The glass collection also includes work by New England makers (including Boston and Sandwich, Mount Washington, and New England Glass) and turn-of-the-century American art glass (by Tiffany, Quezal, Steuben, and others).  

Mary and Edwin Scheier
Over the course of decades, the Currier Museum has amassed the most complete collection of work by first-generation studio potters Mary and Edwin Scheier. The culmination was the 2013 bequest of the couple’s personal collection of their work, including wood sculptures, digital prints, sand paintings, weavings, and hundreds of ceramics.

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Please note that only a small fraction of the collection is on view at a given time, and the galleries are rotated often. If you want to know if a specific work is currently on view, please write or call ahead.


The Currier Museum's photography collection of over 1,700 images spans the history of the medium. Noteworthy are 19th-century images by American and European pioneers of the medium, including William Henry Jackson, Carleton Watkins, William Henry Fox Talbot, and Eadweard Muybridge.

The museum has a strong selection of 20th-century pictorialist photographs by such artists as Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Steichen, and Ansel Adams. Documentary photography from the 20th century is prominently represented in the collection. Artists such as James VanDerZee, Dorothea Lange, and Lewis Hine, who created images of early 20th century America that have become part of our collective visual memory, occupy an important position in the collection. Photographs produced by Gordon Parks, Ernest Withers, Eli Reed, and others, were instrumental in galvanizing the civil rights movements of the century. The museum also holds a deep collection of photography documenting American conflicts, including the Vietnam War, 9/11, and the subsequent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The collection includes work by contemporary artists who continue to explore, expand, and redefine the photographic medium. The collection includes work by Pictures Generation artists who imbued minimalist and conceptual ideas into their photographs, like Laurie Simmons and James Casebere, as well as artists who pioneered digital photography such as Martha Rosler. Collection artists such Carrie Mae Weems, Hank Willis Thomas, Din Q Le, Nan Goldin, Alex Peskine, and Aïda Muluneh blend documentary techniques with highly personalized points of view to create work which centers marginalized and oppressed groups.

Lotte Jacobi and Modernist photography
The Currier Museum is a major repository of Lotte Jacobi’s photography, numbering over 400 images. They are accompanied by Modernist photographs by her contemporaries such as Paul Caponigro, Paul Strand, László Moholy-Nagy, Frantisek Drtikol, Brett Weston, William Clift, William Garnett, Frank Gohlke, and Edward Burtynsky The collection also has fine examples of modern abstract techniques like rayographs, photograms, and photogenics by Man Ray, Bill Brandt, and Jacobi herself.

Search the full collection to discover even more.

Please note that only a small fraction of the collection is on view at a given time, and the galleries are rotated often. If you want to know if a specific work is currently on view, please write or call ahead.

About Currier Collections Online

The Currier Museum of Art's permanent collection contains over 15,000 objects, representing nearly every medium including architecture. Only a fraction of these objects can be on display in the museum galleries at any one time, but the entire collection can be explored in Currier Collections Online. High resolution images of many of the objects are available for download. Many entries have extended interpretive text.



Even more information can be found in the museum’s digital archives. Images of work in the Currier Museum's collection are accessible online for educational use only. For commercial use please contact rights&

Support for Currier Collections Online has been provided by the Henry Luce Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Samuel P. Hunt Foundation, the Putnam Foundation, the Badger Fund, the Verizon Foundation and Currier funds.