The Fort Wayne Museum of Art's permanent collection consists of nearly 1,400 American paintings, sculpture, drawings, prints and photographs. The museum's collection includes primarily American art created after 1850 through the present. Significant works include paintings by Janet Fish, George Inness, Alma Thomas, Milton Avery, Thomas Moran, and Larry Rivers; sculpture by Mark di Suvero, Richard Greenough, Kiki Smith, George Rickey, and John Newman; works on paper by Chuck Close, Jasper Johns, Kara Walker, Alison Saar, Dawoud Bey, and Robert Rauschenberg, a collection of 56 Indiana Amish quilts, hundreds of American Cut Glass work and Roseville Pottery.
The Fort Wayne Museum of Art's first benefactor was Wayne Knitting Mills' owner Theodore F. Thieme. In 1921 Thieme donated ten paintings to the Fort Wayne Art School, marking the museum's auspicious birth. Gifts and bequests of art from private individuals have largely shaped the permanent collection over the years.
When the museum moved to the current facility, built in 1984, approximately one half of the current holdings had been acquired. Through the 1980s up to the present the museum pursued creative means of purchasing works of art. The museum has benefited from purchase awards from area and national foundations and purchase grants from Arts United in Fort Wayne and the National Endowment for the Arts. In 1996 the Hamilton Circle was established, consisting of members who donated money to fund purchases, including works by Jennifer Bartlett, John Hrehov and Hung Liu.