American art has been an important part of the Museum’s collection since the founding gift in 1917. Objects date from the 18th century to the present and feature an expansive group of artists and materials, including painting, sculpture, ceramics, textiles, video, and new media.
One area of emphasis includes landscape paintings by artists such as Winslow Homer and Georgia O’Keeffe. The Spencer also houses painted studies for the Topeka Capitol murals by John Steuart Curry and singular works by fellow regionalists Grant Wood and Thomas Hart Benton. Among recent paintings are large-scale works by Roger Shimomura, Elizabeth Murray, Robert Motherwell, and Harvey Dinnerstein. The collection is strong in sculpture encompassing figuration and abstraction, with notable works by Luis Jimenez, Wendell Castle, and Mimi Smith. Also notable are textiles and quilts from the 18th century to the present, with standouts by Kansas quilters Rose Kretsinger and Carrie Hall, and contemporary works by Ann Hamilton, Faith Ringgold, Cynthia Schira, and Elaine Reichek.
In 2009 the Spencer became the Kansas repository of fifty American artworks from the collection of Dorothy and Herbert Vogel, New York, given as part of the national initiative 50 Works for 50 States.