HISTORY: From its beginnings, the St. Louis Mercantile Library sought to provide its rooms as a gallery for art as well as for books to its members-the early populace and citizenry of a frontier city. In many ways, the Mercantile was founded by business leaders not only as a general library for all readers, but also as an art museum, one of St. Louis' first and longest lasting, in which such merchants exercised a high degree of taste and knowledge in collecting art for the viewing public. Many special exhibitions were presented by the Library in its earliest days, some to raise funds for various causes. Library leaders, such as James Yeatman and Henry Bacon, were deeply interested in the fine arts, even distinguished connoisseurs and patrons in their time. The Mercantile was often the recipient of a gift of art, or of a long-term loan which was never recalled, and almost by default the founders frequently saw to it that paintings of great merit were preserved which otherwise would have been lost to subsequent generations.
SCOPE: The collection of oil paintings and watercolors spans over 150 years from ca.1810 to the present. Genres include portraiture, landscape, and western art. Subjects range from portraits of prominent Americans, especially St. Louisans, to regional rural and urban landscapes and riverscapes, to Western and Native American subjects.
- Portrait of James Yeatman, founder of the Mercantile Library, by A. Wunder, ca.1860
- Portrait of Joseph Charless, Jr., by W. Cogswell, 1859
- Landscape, watercolor, by D. Dawson-Watkins, ca.1910
- Solitude, by Oscar Berninghaus, 1920
- Joseph Pulitzer, by Leopold Horowitz, 1902
- Portrait of Auguste Chouteau, one of the founders of St. Louis, and one of the oldest of the Mercantile's paintings, ca.1810
- George & Martha Washington, two oil-sketches, by George Caleb Bingham after Gilbert Stuart, ca.1859
- Portrait of Edward W. Johnston, by Sarah Peale, 1865
- Scene on the Meramec, near Glencoe, by Joseph R. Meeker, 1877
- Live Man, Live Strong, Another June Is Come [Landscape near Elsah], by Frederick Oakes Sylvester, ca.1901
- Four Winnebago Leaders, by Charles Deas, ca.1842, including portrait of Wa-kon-cha-hi-re-ga
- Portrait of William Clark, by Chester Harding, ca.1838
- Westward the Star of Empire, by Theodore Kaufmann, ca.1869
- Portrait of Matthias W. Baldwin, ca.1840
- Ten watercolors of scenes along the Mississippi, by James Godwin Scott, ca.1950-1985
- View of the Mississippi, by Frederick Oakes Sylvester, 1910
- St. Louis Riverfront, by Joe Jones, 1932
- Carondelet, watercolor, by John Caspar Wild, ca.1891
- Urban Landscape, by Jessie Beard Rickley, ca. 1950
- Rainy Night, Grand and Olive, by Fred Conway, ca. 1970
ACCESS: The Art Collection is available for viewing during service hours 7:30 A.M.- 10:30 P.M., Monday-Thursday; 7:30 A.M.-5:00 P.M., Friday; 9:00 A.M.-5:00 P.M., Saturday; and 1:00 P.M.-9:00 P.M., Sunday, and by appointment.
Researchers are advised to call ahead concerning changes in hours due to University intersessions and holidays. The St. Louis Mercantile Library is located on levels one and two of the Thomas Jefferson Library building.
Question about this collections should be referred to:
Curator of Fine Art Collections
In observance of security procedures, certain services may not be available shortly before the daily closing time.
Direct questions or comments regarding this site to
The Saint Louis Mercantile Library at the University of Missouri-St. Louis
St. Louis Subject Specialist