One of the first collectors of fine art in the United States, James Bowdoin III brought together works by the old masters with that of his contemporaries. Not only did James Bowdoin give the College he endowed what would become the first public collection of drawings in the United States, but his gift and the works it comprised would demonstrate the important role ascribed to the visual arts in educating members of the new American republic.

On Oct. 7, 2015, several panelists convened at Bowdoin to shed new light on the importance of his pioneering activities. They were Ellen Miles, curator emerita of painting and sculpture, Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery; Richard Saunders, director, Middlebury College Museum of Art and professor of history of art and architecture; and Sarah Cantor, Summer 2015 Kress Research Fellow, Bowdoin College Museum of Art.