The New-York Historical Society houses an outstanding collection of over twenty-five hundred American paintings—primarily portraits, genre scenes and landscapes—dating from the colonial period through the twentieth century, as well as a select number of European works. It includes the personal collection of the New York merchant and pioneering art patron Luman Reed, as well as the collection of Robert L. Stuart, another nineteenth-century New York philanthropist and art collector. In addition, the Historical Society's holdings from the collection of Thomas Jefferson Bryan include both American and European paintings.
The New-York Historical Society holds one of the nation's preeminent collections of Hudson River School landscapes, including Thomas Cole’s iconic five-painting series The Course of Empire and works by Asher B. Durand (over 400 pieces including works on paper), Frederic E. Church, Jasper F. Cropsey, Sanford R. Gifford, John F. Kensett and Albert Bierstadt. Sketchbooks, drawings, diaries and correspondence generated by many of these painters are retained in the Henry Luce III Center for the Study of American Culture and in the Patricia D. Klingenstein Libra