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Painting Collection

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.


  • Auguste Chouteau, one of the founders of St. Louis, oil on canvas, ca.1810

  • William Clark, oil on canvas, by Chester Harding, ca.1820

  • Wa-kon-cha-hi-re-ga in a Bark Lodge, oil on canvas, by Charles Deas, ca.1840

  • View of Carondelet; South St. Louis, Gouache on paper, by John Caspar Wild, 1841

  • Joseph Charless, Jr., by William Cogswell, 1859

  • George Washington and Martha Washington, both oil on canvas, by George Caleb Bingham after Gilbert Stuart, ca.1859

  • James Yeatman, founder of the Mercantile Library, pastel, by A. Wunder, ca.1860

  • Edward W. Johnston, oil on canvas laid on panel, by Sarah Peale, 1865

  • Westward the Star of Empire, oil on canvas, by Theodore Kaufmann, ca.1869

  • View of the Meramec, near Glencoe, oil on canvas, by Joseph R. Meeker, 1877

  • Live Man, Live Strong, Another June Is Here, oil on canvas, by Frederick Oakes Sylvester, ca.1901

  • Joseph Pulitzer, oil on canvas, by Leopold Horowitz, 1902

  • River Birches, oil on canvas, by D. Dawson-Watson, ca.1910

  • Solitude, oil on canvas, by Oscar Berninghaus, 1920

  • Old Rock House, oil on canvas, by Oscar Thalinger, ca.1932

  • Planting Trees in Forest Park, oil and tempera on canvas, by Jacob Burck, 1938

  • Urban Landscape, watercolor, by Jessie Beard Rickley, undated

  • Perryville Station, oil on canvas, by Martyl, 1940

  • Gray Barn, oil on canvas, by Joe Jones, 1948

  • Rainy Night, Grand and Olive, oil on canvas, by Fred Conway, ca. 1970

  • Rail Yard, watercolor, by Stan Masters, ca. 1980

  • St. Louis Riverfront, Looking North, watercolor, by James Godwin Scott, 1982

  • Dusk on the Missouri, oil on canvas, by R. H. Dick, 2003

  • Overlooking the Augusta Valley, oil on canvas, by Joan Parker, 2004

  • River City Morning, oil on canvas, by Billyo, 2010

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.

Questions about this collection should be referred to:

Julie Dunn-Morton
Curator of Fine Art Collections