Collection Highlights

Founded in 1869 from the private holdings of William Wilson Corcoran, the Corcoran’s collection now encompasses over 16,000 works of art and continues to grow. The Corcoran is recognized internationally for a distinguished collection of historic and modern American art as well as contemporary art, photography, European painting, sculpture, and decorative arts.

These highlights from the collection represent a cross-section of the Corcoran’s five main collecting areas. Browse by individual collecting area, or search for works currently on view in the Gallery. If you have questions regarding whether a particular work is on view, please contact the Admissions Desk at (202) 639-1798.

The Corcoran’s signature and world-renowned collection of American art dating from 1718 to 1945 began as the private holdings of William Wilson Corcoran. His initial collection of landscape paintings, genre scenes, portraits, and sculptures has grown to encompass over 500 paintings, 200 sculptures, and 2,400 works on paper. Key 20th-century acquisitions were made beginning in 1907, with the advent of the Corcoran’s Biennial. The collection’s particular strengths include Hudson River School painting, American Impressionism, and early 20th-century realism.

Washington before Yorktown

1824; reworked 1825, 18301


Rembrandt Peale
The Greek Slave

modeled 1841–43; carved 1846


Hiram Powers
Niagara

1857


Frederic Edwin Church
Forty-two Kids

19071


George Wesley Bellows

The Corcoran’s decorative arts collection, though not as extensive as the Gallery’s other holdings, includes excellent examples in a variety of media. The collection includes Greek antiquities; Italian Renaissance maiolica; Islamic carpets; 18th century French tapestries, furniture, architectural ornamentation; and modern and contemporary ceramics. The centerpiece of the collection is the Salon Doré, the Corcoran’s 18th-century gilded French period room. It was originally part of the Hôtel de Clermont, an early 18th-century private residence in Paris.

Nymph of Fontainebleau

19th century


Georges Pull
Shallow Oval Dish with a scene of the Sacrifice of Isaac

early 17th century


School of Palissy (Avon)
Dish with Allegorical Scene

c. 1520–1525


Unknown
Clock of the Vestals Carrying the Sacred Fire

1789


Pierre-Philippe Thomire

The Corcoran’s collection of European art includes painting, sculpture, and works on paper from the 14th through the early 20th centuries. The collection is particularly well-regarded for its 17th-century Dutch landscape and genre paintings, 18th- through early 19th-century British paintings, and 19th-century French paintings, including significant holdings of Realist, Barbizon, and Impressionist landscapes. Included are works by Jean-Baptise-Camille Corot, Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin, Eugène Delacroix, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Claude Monet, Thomas Gainsborough, Joshua Reynolds, Gerard ter Borch, and Aelbert Cuyp.

From its inception, the Corcoran has placed contemporary art at the core of its mission and identity. The museum collects the art of the present for display and interpretation alongside the Gallery’s ever-expanding historical collections. The Corcoran’s pursuit of the new has ensured that the museum and its collections remain vibrant, constantly looking to the future while evaluating its past. The post-1945 collection includes paintings, sculptures, and works on paper, new media, and installation art. The collection features works from post-war artists such as Willem de Kooning, Ellsworth Kelly, Cy Twombly, Richard Diebenkorn, Joan Mitchell, Bruce Nauman, Martin Puryear, Jessica Stockholder, Anne Truitt,  Robert Colescott, and others.

Coleman’s Cafe (I)

1982


William Christenberry
Red Star

1970


Raymond Saunders
Flyer

1986


Sean Scully
Insurrection

1962


Anne Truitt

In the late 19th century, the Corcoran was among the first museums in the United States to acquire photographs. The museum began collecting photography and media art in earnest in the 1970s and has since obtained works in a wide variety of media made between the 1850s and the present day. The collection now includes more than 6,500 photographs, videos, and digital works, which together reflect diverse ideas and styles important to the evolution of photographic history.

Run, Nigger, Run

1992


Carrie Mae Weems
Red Ceiling

1972


William Eggleston
Untitled (Father and Son)

2002


Zwelethu Mthethwa