The Permanent Collection of the Saginaw Art Museum, begun in 1947 focus is on, but not limited, to the following areas:
- paintings, sculptures and watercolors produced by American and European artists from the 18th century through 21st centuries,
- works on paper produced by American and European artists from the 19th through 21stcenturies,
- art photography produced by American and European artists from the mid-19th through 21st centuries,
- glass and ceramics beginning with the art glass and art pottery movements of the mid-19th century through the 21st centuries,
- and silver designed and fabricated by American and European artists from the 19th through 21st centuries.
As England rose to a world power in the 17th century with the return of William of Orange from Holland, the country grew more dominant with the expanse of its empire and so followed its development of fine and decorative arts. The strong tradition of British portraiture reaches its zenith in the late 18th and early 19th centuries as documented through the work by Sir Thomas Lawrence in the gallery.
With the establishment of the French Court at Versailles toward the end of the 17th century, Louis XIV conscientiously established France as the center of the artistic world, a position held through the advent of World War II. Not to suggest stylistic stagnation, to the contrary, new artistic approaches regularly challenged those of previous generations.
Shared traditions between hemispheres and across millennium demonstrate the commonality of man’s experiences. Some of the artistic traditions can be experienced through the interest in flora and fauna, real and imagined.
Sculpture is among the earliest art forms known to man. The desire to create a three-dimensional likeness of real objects crosses cultures and periods.
From man’s earliest artistic expressions, the narrative has been a dominant theme whether documenting a successful hunt, relating the activities of a divine being, illustrating images based on literary work, or focusing on the activities of everyday life.
The American tradition of romantic landscape painting began in the mid-1820s with the work of Thomas Cole and Asher B. Durand. Cole and his followers were influenced by Dutch and British traditions of landscape painting.
Beginning in the 18th century with the American portrait artist John Singleton Copley, Americans have constantly attempted to convey a sense of realism in painting. These ideas did not remain stagnant through 19th and 20th centuries nor did all American painters adhere to the realist tradition.