Art Gallery

Visiting Information

The gallery is open free of charge to the public Monday through Friday from 9:00 am - 5:00 pm. You are welcome to come browse the collection on your own or sign up for a guided tour by the knowledgeable staff.

Art Gallery History

Soon after its founding in 1885, the Des Moines Women’s Club decided that the creation of an art collection in the city of Des Moines was a top priority. That mission has resulted in the collection that is today recognized as one of the earliest and most distinctive in Iowa in that it focuses mainly on the art and the patronage patterns of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, including work by Iowa artists of that period. Not only did the Women’s Club founders decide to establish a collection that could be viewed by the public, but they also voted to fund it.  Its first purchase was a bronze statue of Joan of Arc exhibited at the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893, a sculpture still on display at the Hoyt Sherman Place.  The collection continued to grow and, when the Women’s Club began to headquarter at Hoyt Sherman Place in 1907, it found a permanent home.

The Club’s goals and acquisitions drew the attention of Major S.H.M. Byers and his wife Margaret who in 1922 – the same year that the Club enlarged the Sherman Mansion by adding an art gallery – bequeathed to it their private collection of art and artifacts. The majority of these works are still on display at the Hoyt Sherman Place Gallery, including paintings by American artists: George Inness, Thomas Moran, Elihu Vedder, and Frederick Frieseke, among others.

The preferences of 19th century Iowa collectors are shown by art they acquired in Europe during their travels there, including two important paintings now recognized as the work of 16th century masters.

The highlight of the collection is Apollo and Venus by the Flemish artist, Otto van Veen, which is regarded now as the most important Old Master painting in the state of Iowa. The painting was given to the Des Moines Women's Club in 1952 by Louise Coskey from the Collins-Coskery Collection but it had been on loan to the Club since 1923. At some point it had been put in a storage closet and forgotten. It was discovered by the new Executive Director Robert Warren in 2018 and restored to its original beauty by Barry Bauman, an art conservator in Chicago.

The gallery is also home to paintings by pioneer Iowa artists such as David John Gue and other later artists which represent the history of art in the state. This aspect of the collection has been enhanced by the purchase of paintings shown in the Club’s annual exhibitions.

The Des Moines Women’s Club was so devoted to the creation and preservation of art, including that by artists in Iowa, that in 1895 they hired the painter and educator, Charles Atherton Cumming, to establish an art school in the city. Even after his death in 1932, Cumming’s school continued to train young Iowans until the 1950s. As part of their patronage of art, the Women’s Club hosted their first exhibition in 1909, which for many decades was the primary venue for the artists of the city; it continues today as a popular juried exhibition opportunity.

Hoyt Sherman Place (supported by the Hoyt Sherman Place Foundation) is proud to house and display this    distinctive collection. Not only is the Foundation committed to displaying and expanding its historic holdings, but they also emphasize and support the continuing preservation of all its objects. Thanks to generous donors, it sponsors extensive conservation which will keep its works of art looking beautiful and in superb condition for years to come.

Click here to see a list of paintings at Hoyt Sherman Place. 

Gallery Photos