During the second quarter of the nineteenth century, American artists developed a strong interest in genre painting, or scenes and events from everyday life. Prior to this time, the vast majority of paintings were portraits of the mercantile, social, and political leaders of the country. Genre painting allowed American artists to express their cultural ideals as distinct from those of Europe, as they consistently emphasized the values of personal and economic liberty and individual entrepreneurship.
Selections from Fenimore Art Museum's Fine and Folk Art collections can be seen throughout the museum, including the American Genre Painting Gallery, The Main Gallery, The James Fenimore Cooper Room and several hallways. These paintings include Hudson River School artists such as Thomas Cole, genre painters such as William Sidney Mount, and folk artists such as Edward Hicks and Ralph Fasanella.