Masterworks from the Gilcrease Collection

Ongoing

Beauty, fame, craftsmanship, historic significance—there are many qualities to consider when defining a masterwork in a museum collection. The works on display in this exhibition include objects from ancient cultures of the Americas, documents from our nation’s founding, and more than 200 years of American painting and sculpture. While these objects represent disparate time periods, styles, and purposes, all are among the most significant works in the Gilcrease Museum collection.

For example, 2000 years ago in present-day Illinois, an artist carved a detailed beaver in black stone and finished the work with inset pearls. Today, the carving is among the greatest artworks to emerge from the ancient Hopewell culture. At the onset of the American Revolution in 1776, Benjamin Franklin carried a hand-written, certified copy of the newly-drafted Declaration of Independence to France to rally European leaders to the American cause—and Franklin’s certified copy of the Declaration is now part of the Gilcrease collection. In his own era in the late 19th century Thomas Moran was a cutting-edge, contemporary artist, and his epic landscapes changed the course of American painting.

The objects in this exhibition are masterworks for many different reasons, yet together the Gilcrease collection shed light on the art, history, and culture of the Americas, from ancient times to the present.