With works by masters such as Raphaelle Peale, Edward Hopper, and Loïs Mailou Jones, the Delaware Art Museum’s collection of American art spans more than 200 years.

The DelArt galleries feature excellent examples of art from Delaware and the Brandywine Valley, including paintings by Edward Loper and Andrew Wyeth. Almost all the paintings in our gallery of 19th-century portraiture were produced within 50 miles of the Museum, and local landscapes are on view throughout the galleries.

Many of the artists in the Museum collection are known for pushing boundaries and exploring realism. John Sloan and The Eight, for example, rejected modes of painting that featured elegant interiors and elite subjects. Instead, Sloan and some of his associates portrayed everyday life in New York. Although this made their work unpopular with many critics and collectors in the early 1900s, The Eight became famous for their rebellious personas and their realist pictures. Thanks to the generosity of his widow, Helen Farr Sloan, the Museum has more than 2,500 of Sloan’s works, as well as his extensive archives, making DelArt a hub for the study of his work.

The Delaware Art Museum was founded to preserve the work of Wilmington-based artist Howard Pyle, who gained fame as an author and illustrator of books and magazines at the turn of the 20th century. Pyle filled his riveting pictures of American heroes, intrepid explorers, and medieval adventurers with drama and emotion, inspiring generations of illustrators and movie directors. His iconic pirates serve as the inspiration for pirates in popular culture today. Pyle’s popularity was due to his remarkable gift for seizing and expressing the dramatic gist of a story. An articulate and demanding teacher, he communicated this skill to his many students, teaching them to put themselves “in the picture.” Pyle’s illustrious students include N. C. Wyeth, Frank Schoonover, Jessie Willcox Smith, and other famous illustrators.

Pyle and his students worked when illustration was in high demand. The boom in illustrated publications provided work for a cadre of male and female illustrators well beyond the Pyle circle. Popular magazines like Harper’s Weekly, Collier’s, and the Saturday Evening Post reached hundreds of thousands of readers each month across the United States and beyond. In a letter to his brother, Vincent van Gogh wrote, “Do you know an American magazine Harpers Monthly? There are wonderful sketches in it … which strike me dumb with admiration … by Howard Pyle.” Although they were available far and wide, these books and magazines were aimed at the educated, white middle class in the United States, and the stories and illustrations in them reflect those values.

Visit Pre-Raphaelite images throughout City Council District 8. DelArt has partnered with Wilmington City Councilperson Nathan Field on a mural project, “Nature’s Palette,” with images and words inspired by nature.

In 1848, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and six other British artists and writers, including John Everett Millais and William Holman Hunt, formed the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood (PRB). They shared a disdain for the established art institutions of the day, in particular the Royal Academy. The Academy encouraged a style of painting based on the art of the High Renaissance during the time of the painter Raphael. Instead, the PRB artists sought inspiration in the art of the medieval period—the art before the time of Raphael, which explains their unusual name.

The PRBs lived during the Industrial Revolution in England, a time of rapid change in all aspects of life. Their early work reflected their concern with industrialization and the social, ethical, and moral problems it caused. They often chose subjects of contemporary life, highlighting these issues, and painted them in detail, flaws and all. At first, their work was attacked in the press. But soon, the art critic John Ruskin came to their aid, writing a letter to the London Times defending their aims. Ruskin encouraged the PRB artists to turn away from current artistic trends and instead to paint out of doors, closely observing the natural world and depicting it with precise accuracy.

The Delaware Art Museum’s contemporary collection of American art surveys artistic trends from the second half of the 20th century through the present. Additionally, the DelArt collection pays special attention to presenting contemporary art from our vibrant community.

Fine examples of paintings and sculptures by Edna Andrade, Jim Dine, Felrath Hines, Robert Indiana, Elizabeth Osborne, and Anne Truitt show the diverse ways in which artists responded to the myth and drama of Abstract Expressionism. In 2008, the Museum was the recipient of a major gift from The Dorothy and Herbert Vogel Collection: Fifty Works for Fifty States program. Comprised of 50 works of art by artists such as Lynda Benglis, Robert Mangold, and Richard Tuttle, the gift of conceptual and minimal art strengthened the Museum’s ability to tell the story of American art in the 1960s and 1970s.

With the approach of the 21st century came a renewed commitment to enhance the strengths of the Museum. Contemporary American artists concerned with identity and politics in the 1980s, such as Luis Cruz Azaceta, Deborah Butterfield, Robert Colescott, Melvin Edwards, Faith Ringgold, and Joyce Scott, began to share the spotlight in the increasingly inclusive Museum collection. At the same time, the Museum’s continued commitment to represent experimentations in the field of craft introduced acquisitions of works of art by Wendell Castle, Dale Chihuly, and Toshiko Takaezu.

With 20 sculptures by nationally recognized artists presented in a setting that integrates indigenous plants, the Copeland Sculpture Garden offers visitors a pleasant walk through the Delaware Art Museum’s lush surroundings. Throughout the warmer months, the Sculpture Garden is also the site of community events and music performances. DelArt’s outdoor gallery features a mix of sculptures from the collection as well as items on loan. Dedicated in 2006 by Tatiana Copeland in honor of her husband, Gerret, and his parents, Pamela and Lammot duPont Copeland, the space incorporates the existing wooded areas and lawns that were part of the original Samuel and Mary R. Bancroft estate.

The earliest sculpture in the Garden, Domenico Mortellito’s Protecting the Future, dates from 1966-1967, and is a commentary on pollution. The massive kneeling figure protects the small child from a cloud of pollutants swirling overhead. The collection also includes fine examples of abstract metal sculpture from the 1970s and 1980s. Works of art by Betty Gold, Joe Moss, David Stromeyer, and Isaac Witkin show the tendency at that period to work on an increasingly larger scale. George Rickey’s Three Rectangles Horizontal Jointed Gyratory III fuses aesthetics with precise engineering by using large steel forms that are moved lightly by the wind.

Located on the lower level of the Delaware Art Museum, the Helen Farr Sloan Library & Archives houses over 40,000 volumes and 2,000 linear feet of archives. This non-circulating research collection includes monographs, exhibition catalogs, periodicals, reference works and extensive vertical files relating to individual artists. The scope of the Helen Farr Sloan Library & Archives reflects the Delaware Art Museum’s permanent collection.

The Library is open by appointment to visitors Wednesday through Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. To schedule an appointment or submit an information request, please contact Rachael DiEleuterio, Librarian and Archivist, by email at rdieleuterio@delart.org or by phone at 302.351.8540.

Library Catalog

The Library’s online catalog contains bibliographic records for the book, periodical and vertical file holdings. Search Library Collection

Archival Collections

The Archival Collections of the Helen Farr Sloan Library & Archives focus on three major collecting areas, each complementary to the strengths of the Museum’s permanent art collection. These collections, in conjunction with the book and Museum art collections, contribute to the unique research opportunities available at the Delaware Art Museum. Search Archival Collections

Digital Archives

The Digital Archives provides online access to select items from the manuscript collections of the Helen Farr Sloan Library & Archives. Search Digital Archives

Exhibition History

View a chronological list of over a century’s worth of Museum exhibitions. Archival materials exist for many exhibitions. Contact Rachael DiEleuterio, Librarian/Archivist at rdieleuterio@delart.org for additional information. View Exhibition History

Library Exhibitions

Explore online exhibitions of some of the unique holdings of the Helen Farr Sloan Library & Archives. View Library Exhibitions

Frequently Asked Questions

Who may use the Library?
The Library & Archives collections are available for research by anyone who is interested.

Do I need an appointment to visit the Library?
Yes. The Library is open by appointment only. Please request an appointment as far in advance of your preferred dates as possible.

How do I schedule an appointment?
To schedule an appointment or submit an information request, please email rdieleuterio@delart.org or call 302.351.8540. Please read the Access to Archives and Special Collections Policy and complete a Researcher Registration Form prior to your visit.

What are the Library’s hours?
The Library is open by appointment to visitors Wednesday through Friday, 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

How do I find which collection items I want to see?
Please use the Library’s online catalog to search for materials. Finding Aids for the Archival Collections may be found here.

How much is my work of art worth?
The Delaware Art Museum does not, as a matter of policy, offer appraisals, evaluations or authentications of works of art.