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Upcoming Events of 2024

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Please note that Level One is closed for renovations until further notice and tours cannot be scheduled at this time.
For any questions, please call 314-516-7248 or email MercantileLibrary@umsl.edu

Selections from the St. Louis Mercantile Library Art Museum      

On Level One

The Mercantile Library has collected and exhibited art since its founding in 1846, making its art collection a key element in its cultural and educational mission. In the fall of 2011, the St. Louis Mercantile Library Art Museum was officially established with an advisory board and the mission to tell the story of Missouri and the nation’s heartland region by collecting, exhibiting and providing a venue for Missouri art and artists and encouraging partnerships between scholars, artists, collectors, and the region’s cultural community. This exhibition of the Library’s permanent collection celebrates the Library’s ongoing commitment to Missouri art through works from the 18th through the 21st centuries presented in five thematic sections.

Check back soon for announcements of upcoming exhibitions!




The Great St. Louis Bridge In Image and Print:
Celebrating the 150th Anniversary of the Dedication of the Eads Bridge

March 18 - July 8, 2024
Meier Gallery, Level Two Atrium

From the time of its completion in 1874, the Eads Bridge became an iconic symbol of the industry, modernity, and energy of the city of St. Louis.  The St. Louis Mercantile Library celebrates this anniversary with a focused exhibition of 35 objects highlighting selections from its transportation, archival, and fine art collections that illustrate the bridge’s construction, its history, its use as a symbol, and the ways artists depicted its ground-breaking design.

Pencils_REVISEDuc-web.jpgPencils on the Frontier: Sketches by Artist-Explorers in the American West from the Mercantile Library Collection

October 2022 – May 2024
Pratt Gallery, Level One

Many of the early residents and explorers of the American frontier created artwork that preserved images of themselves, the people they met and the landscapes that surrounded them. For some, the scenery was familiar, while for others it was a fascinating new subject being depicted for eager audiences on the east coast and in Europe. Whether depicting their own exploits in battle or documenting the unfamiliar lifestyles of peoples they experienced for the first time, these artists created works that provide fascinating glimpses into 19th century life in the American west.

Expressions: Portraits from the Mercantile Library Collection

July 2022 - May 2023

Meier Gallery, Level Two Atrium

Portraits were the earliest works of art collected by the Mercantile Library, and this genre can now be found across many of our collections. This exhibition examines the concept of the portrait by displaying selections from the fine art, rare book, and political collections that served very different purposes at the time they were created. For example, political campaigns rely heavily on the portrait to identify the candidate and are a persuasive tool to recruit voters. Portraits of known subjects can also be persuasive - especially if the sitter wished to convey a certain image or message in the work - or they may simply be the artist's most readily available subject - a family member. When the sitter is unknown, the portrait may be symbolic or simply an appealing image that caught the artist's eye. Portraits of artists, whether created by themselves or by another artist, provide a unique insight into the lives of artists and the nature of their friendships. This exhibition is just a highlight of the portraits in the Mercantile collection, and you are invited to view additional examples on display on Level 1 and listed on the last page of this brochure.

Pictures & Places: Pictorial Maps at the Mercantile Library

July 2022 - April 2023
On Level 1

This exhibition highlights the growing study of pictorial maps, persuasive broadsides of various geographic areas that included often charming pictures and symbolic images which highlighted a theme or told a story across a known landscape. These maps became very popular over a century ago to advertise and encourage travel; to chart scientific issues; to promote industries; to create interest in literary settings; to foster planned neighborhoods or building developments; to educate, inform and convince. They form a delightful byway into past attitudes and cultural aspirations and are still being produced today to educate the public by placing images on the land, to create a contextual setting, to prove a point, get one on the move, or build consensus, and can be studied to great advantage, historically. Some are appreciated today as beautifully drawn and designed artifacts. The Mercantile has a large and growing collection of these pictorial maps.

A Nation, A City, & Its First Library: Americana as a Way of Life at the St. Louis Mercantile Library for 175 Years

April 2021 - April 2022
On Levels 1 and 2, and Atrium Level

Through eight galleries and intertwined chapters, the Library presents its most treasured collections on Native Americans; on the 1840s era of our founding; on first and significant American history printings, especially those printed west of the Mississippi for the first time, such as the first book, newspaper, almanac, sheet music, map, atlas, poetry, novel, play, and many other items printed in St. Louis and elsewhere; on American narratives and activities-- from rail, river and fur trade history, to individual achievements on the national level, to the struggle for freedom-- in our city of St. Louis, and often intersecting with the history and collecting interests of the Mercantile Library; on art of Missouri in the collection; on manuscript collections—in short, an examination of the core collections which have made the Mercantile a well-used and needed national and local historical resource from its beginnings, when it opened its doors to a frontier metropolis on April 9, 1846. The Library celebrates its venerable role as the oldest cultural institution in St. Louis and one of the first cultural institutions chartered by the state of Missouri. View the exhibition catalogue here.

ontheland-sml.jpgOn the Land: Landscapes as Americana for 175 Years at the St. Louis Mercantile Library

On Level 2 Near Stairwell, March 2021 - March 2022

Early in the history of landscape painting, both artists and their patrons realized the expressive potential of artwork that depicted a nation’s geography. Thus, landscape painting became a powerful tool employed to represent the social and political aspirations of entire nations. In the United States, the story of landscape painting encompasses a broad range of topics that reflect every aspect of the country’s development. In their efforts to depict the expanding landscape of the growing nation, artists created works that reflect the narrative that inspired them and thus become as much a document of Americana as any book or map. This focused exhibition presents eight paintings and one lithograph that depict the American landscape from the 19th to the 21st centuries. While the styles vary greatly, the works are united by the narrative references they each contain and the way these narratives document the American story.
View handlist: page 2
bingham_county_election2-002.jpgTwo Great Engravers in Wood & Steel

In the Atrium-Meier Gallery, 2020
The Mercantile Library marks this election year we are presenting the famous election series by Missouri’s preeminent 19th century artist, George Caleb Bingham along with works in American narrative art by his contemporary American artist, Winslow Homer. These two artists each explored the intricacies of everyday life, from Bingham’s depictions of the actions of individuals participating in the political process to Homer’s views of work, school, vacation, and life on the home front of the Civil War.

All Aboard! A Look at the American Railroad Timetable

In the Level 2 Entrance Gallery, 2020

This exhibition features a broad range of timetables from the John W. Barriger III National Railroad Library. Although primarily informative, providing detailed schedules by which travelers planned their trips whether local or coast-to-coast, the timetables are also valued for their artistic merit. From charming 19th century scenic vignettes to modern tour de force graphics, the variety of designs is in itself a tour of the history of American art and design. When not tucked neatly in a jacket pocket or tote bag, the timetables unfolded to reveal a route, a region, or even an entire nation on the lucky traveler’s lap.

Indiana & Transportation: The Thomas Hoback Collection

In the Level 1 Bates Gallery, Wing 1, 2020

The Barriger Railroad Library collections are rich in visual materials that complement and enhance the archival, manuscript, and publication collections. The Thomas Hoback Collection is one such resource, comprising historic large-format photographs of numerous modes of motorized transportation from the state of Indiana, itself a central states transportation hub.

Mapping the Changing Mississippi

In the Level 1 Bates Gallery, Wing 2, 2020

According to Mark Twain, writing in Eruption, “The Mississippi River will always have its own way; no engineering skill can persuade it to do otherwise.” The challenge of the ever-changing river is legend for river boatmen, and the need to accurately map it continues to today. This series of rare, colorful, century-old maps designed by Army Corps of Engineers cartographer Harold Fisk in 1938, document the changing course of the Father of Waters over time, and are a unique printed view of the Mississippi River unlike any other.

Rare River Panoramas  

In the Level 1 Bates Gallery, 2020

The format of the panorama, the 19th century version of moving pictures unrolled from one giant spool to another across torch-lit stages flanked by curtains, was uniquely suited to river scenes, allowing the verdant green shores and the river towns – whether sleepy or burgeoning – to flow past the viewers as if they were actually travelling the river by boat. The panorama format became popular in all sizes, often as fold-outs in travel books. The selection of river panoramas shown here are rarely ever seen treasures from the Herman T. Pott National Inland Waterways Library collection.

 Campaign Curiosities: Election Artifacts from the Shopmaker Collection

In the Shopmaker American Political Collection Gallery, 2019-2020

From the earliest elections to the present day, candidates and the public have used a wide array of objects to promote their political point of view. The button, in its many forms, is the most common campaign object, but campaign promoters quickly learned that both necessary and luxury items were effective ways to spread political messages. As a result, candidates and their slogans appeared on everything from cigars to shot glasses, paper fans to porcelain plates, and from coffee mugs to the cappuccino to put in them. The ten cases in this exhibition also illustrate the breadth of the Shopmaker Political Collection that continues to grow through donation and acquisition to document the history of American politics.

Lincoln: The Changing Face of an American President

In the Shopmaker Political Print Gallery, 2019-2020

The changes in Lincoln’s appearance that were manifested over the period of his presidency reflect the rigors of the Civil War and the personal tragedies he suffered with the death of his son, Tad. This exhibition traces these changes through a selection of images of Lincoln across several media, including prints, photographs, sculpture, and textiles. The portraits tell the story of Lincoln’s rise from young circuit lawyer to inspiring president to icon of American democracy.

Artists of the Mississippi and Other Great American Rivers Nast

In the Meier Gallery, January 31, 2020- May 15, 2020

This exhibition explored how artists have depicted American inland rivers, especially the Mississippi River, and how their vision of the river has changed through the years. This exhibition complements the Missouri History Museum’s major exhibition Mighty Mississippi, on view November 23, 2019 - June 6, 2021.

View the exhibition catalogue here

Henry LewisMississippi Movies: The Legacy of Henry Lewis Panorama

In the Lobby Gallery, January 31, 2020- May 15, 2020

An exhibition of paintings, drawings, prints and rare books exploring the work of St. Louis’ greatest panorama artist, Henry Lewis (1819-1904) who created a vision of the mid-19th century Mississippi that attracted thousands of immigrants to our shores. Lewis is well-known for his 1854 publication Das Illustrirte Mississippithal (The Valley of the Mississippi Illustrated) that included images of life along the river and the growth of river towns and cities. This exhibition complements the Missouri History Museum’s major exhibition Mighty Mississippi, on view November 23, 2019 - June 6, 2021. 

permanent collectionSaunders Schultz: Visionary Abstractions

In the Meier Gallery, June 23, 2019-January 1, 2020

This exhibition presented examples of Schultz’s drawings, paintings, and sculpture that represent his vision of nature.  The Mercantile Library Art Museum wishes to thank Lisa Schultz and Veronica Slade for their generous donation of Schultz artwork and their support of this exhibition. Learn more about Schultz’s work here

Headlines of History: Historic Newspapers of St. Louis and the World Through the Centuries at the St. Louis Mercantile Library Association 

On Level One 2017-2019

This was the third in a planned tetralogy of exhibitions building to the 175th anniversary of the St. Louis Mercantile Library, and featured such items as the first known issue of the Missouri Gazette, the oldest newspaper printed west of the Mississippi; and an issue of the Pennsylvania Ledger from July 13, 1776 marking the first printing of the Declaration of Independence in a newspaper. View the complete exhibition catalogue here

Inspired by Love: Artwork by Artistic Couples

In the Meier Gallery February 4, 2019-June 16, 2019

St. Louis was home to many artists who were married to artists. This exhibition features works by Gustav and Hazel Goetsch, Fred and Mildred Carpenter, Philip and Mary Gronemeyer, and more.

 Audubon and Beyond: Collecting Five Centuries of Natural History at the St. Louis Mercantile Library

On Level One November 6, 2015 - June 2, 2017

Audubon and Beyond told the history of the Library’s contributions to early St. Louis’ scientific education through its imaginative and awe- inspiring primary and original collections, some of the most diversified in any early American library outside of the American Museum of Natural History itself. View the exhibition catalogue here.

map imageMapping St. Louis History: An Exhibition of Historic Maps, Rare Books & Images Commemorating the 250th Anniversary of the Founding of St. Louis

On Level One October 19, 2014-June 30, 2015

The exhibition tracked the city’s development and expansion through maps as important documentary objects and things of beauty as well. Contemporaneous prints, paintings and photographs as well as rare printed histories completed the telling of St. Louis' story.

 frontier facesFrontier Faces: Missouri History in Bronze


View the exhibition catalogue here.



course of modernizationThe Course of Modernization in China, Japan and America, 1850-1930: A Study of Three Cities

October 10, 2009-February 28, 2010

View the complete exhibition catalogue here.



lives on the mississippi

Lives on the Mississippi: Literature and Culture along the Great River from the Collections of the St. Louis Mercantile Library Association

February 23-May 1, 2010

View the complete exhibition catalogue here.


NastThe West the Railroads Made


View the complete exhibition catalogue here.



history uncorkedHistory Uncorked: Two Centuries of Missouri Wine


View the complete exhibition catalogue here.




marbled paperA Snail, A Peacock and a Tiger’s Eye: Historical Marbled Papers in the Collections of the St. Louis Mercantile Library


View the complete exhibition catalogue here



adventures and sufferingsAdventures and Sufferings: The American Indian Captivity Narrative Through the Centuries

December 1, 2002- January 15, 2003

View the complete exhibition catalogue here.



art of the frontierSt. Louis and the Art of the Frontier


View the complete exhibition catalogue here.




 century of american railwayA Century of American Railway Bridges and Buildings

September 28- November 3, 1991

View the complete exhibition catalogue here.