Exploring the Collection

About Our Collection

“I direct my executors hereinafter named and appointed…to cause to be created and organized under the proper statute or statutes of the State of New York, a corporation with the name Arnot Art Gallery…”
   Matthias H. Arnot, Last Will & Testament, 2 April 1908

The Arnot Art Gallery opened in 1913 through the testimony bequest of Matthias H. Arnot, an Elmira businessman and philanthropist. Mr. Arnot willed to the community his 1833 Greek Revival home and collection of seventeenth- through nineteenth-century European paintings; nineteeth-century American and European sculptures; and Egyptian and Greek artifacts. It is one of the last existing private collections still housed intact in its original showcase and provides the nucleus of the Museum's Permanent Collection. The Museum also holds nineteenth-and twentieth-century American artwork and a growing group of contemporary representational paintings.


In 1970 the institution was renamed the Arnot Art Museum, recognizing its growth in stature as well as the greater importance and permanence of a museum. It was noted at the time that the term "Museum" implies a public, educational institution in contrast to the more private sense of the word "gallery." The permanent collection, now over 2000 works, includes over 100 important European paintings, as well as American and European sculptures in marble and bronze, and a growing collection of contemporary realist representational paintings. The Museum revised its Mission in 1992 to include a "primary focus" on representational art. It began the serial exhibitions entitled Re-presenting Representation in 1993 and now holds an acclaimed collection of contemporary drawings, paintings and sculptures.


“A talent for any art is rare, but it is given to nearly every one to cultivate a taste for art; only it must be cultivated in earnestness.  The more things thou learnest to know and to enjoy, the more complete and full will be, for thee, the delight of living.” 
   Plato, quoted by Matthias H. Arnot






The Founding Collection

Housed in its original showcase, the Founding Collection was bequeathed by Matthias Arnot to the community and includes his collection of seventeenth-through nineteenth-century European paintings and sculptures, works on paper, and ancient artifacts. Master works in this collection include paintings by Gerome, Murillo, Breton and Brueghel.
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The American Collection

The nineteenth-century American Collection is largely comprised of Hudson River School landscape and waterscape paintings. Artists Thomas Cole, Jasper Francis Cropsey, Albert Bierstadt, as well as renowned local painter George Waters are standouts in the collection. The Museum also holds a selection of works by Burchfield, Henri, and Davies, while a collection of portraits rounds out the American works in the Museum's holdings.

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The Contemporary Collection

Beginning in 1993, the Museum adapted a secondary focus on the collection of contemporary realist works. That same year, the first installment of the internationally-known exhibition Re-presenting Representation opened to widespread acclaim. To date there have been eight Re-presenting Representation exhibitions, featuring and leading to the acquisition of highly-favored works by Steven Assael, Lisa Bartolozzi, Isabelle McIlvain, Brett Bigbee, Paul Cadmus, Janice Urnstein Weissman and Odd Nerdrum.

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