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Monday, 31 August 2009

Julie Hart Beers Kempson (1835-1913)





A New Jersey woman known for painting landscapes along the Hudson River

By Alexandra A Jopp

Julie Hart Beers Kempson, a painter of the Hudson River School, was one of very few professional women landscape painters in nineteenth-century America and the only one to achieve any renown. Born Julie Hart in Pittsfield, Mass., in 1835, she was the daughter of Scottish immigrants who had settled in Albany, N.Y., in 1831. Her two older brothers, James and William, were both painters, with James studying art in Europe, primarily Germany, from 1850 until 1853, and William studying for several years in Great Britain. Julie’s artistic education was not recorded, but it is often assumed that she was trained by her brothers and later by her first husband, painter Marion Beers. In the 1850s, William, James and Julie (with Marion) each moved separately to New York City. A year after Marion’s death in 1876, Julie married Peter Kempson and moved to Metuchen, N.J; however, she continued to use the last name “Beers” and sign her works as “Julie H. Beers.”

Beers’ first recorded exhibition was at the National Academy of Design (NAD) in 1867. Her works were included in the NAD annual exhibitions in twelve of the years between 1867 and 1885. She exhibited at the Boston Athenaeum in 1867 and 1868 and at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in 1868.

While Beers’ brothers have generally received more recognition by art historians, Mark Sullivan, in James M. and William Hart, American Landscape Painters, quotes a publication’s comment that her “few known landscapes are competent work not unlike that of her brothers.” 1 She is known for several paintings, including Lake George; Forest Interiors; Cattle Watering in a River and the 1888 still-life Oranges. William Gerdts observed in his exhibition catalog, Women Artists of America, 1707-1964, that “Mrs. Julie Hart Beers Kempson became the only woman artist of the century to specialize in landscape.” That she was a rarity is easily explained, Gerdts wrote: “It is perhaps not surprising to find so few women landscapists, since the rigors of painting outdoors and the unseemliness of women engaging in this activity during the Victorian era acted as a deterrent.”2

Julie Hart Beers Kempson demonstrated that women landscape painters were the equal of men, even given the “rigors of painting outdoors.” While largely unappreciated in her own time, her talent and dedication not only produced outstanding works of art, but also broke important ground for the female landscapists who would follow her.

1. Paul E. Sternberg, Sr., Art by American Women: Selections from the Collection of Louise and Alan Sellars. (Gainesville, Ga.: Brenau College, 1991), p.20.

2: William H. Gerdts, Women Artists of America 1707-1964 (Newark, N.J.: Newark Museum, 1965), p. 8.

Julie Hart Beers Kempson (1835-1913)

A New Jersey woman known for painting landscapes along the Hudson River

Julie Hart Beers Kempson, a painter of the Hudson River School, was one of very few professional women landscape painters in nineteenth-century America and the only one to achieve any renown. Born Julie Hart in Pittsfield, Mass., in 1835, she was the daughter of Scottish immigrants who had settled in Albany, N.Y., in 1831. Her two older brothers, James and William, were both painters, with James studying art in Europe, primarily Germany, from 1850 until 1853, and William studying for several years in Great Britain. Julie’s artistic education was not recorded, but it is often assumed that she was trained by her brothers and later by her first husband, painter Marion Beers. In the 1850s, William, James and Julie (with Marion) each moved separately to New York City. A year after Marion’s death in 1876, Julie married Peter Kempson and moved to Metuchen, N.J; however, she continued to use the last name “Beers” and sign her works as “Julie H. Beers.”

Beers’ first recorded exhibition was at the National Academy of Design (NAD) in 1867. Her works were included in the NAD annual exhibitions in twelve of the years between 1867 and 1885. She exhibited at the Boston Athenaeum in 1867 and 1868 and at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in 1868.

While Beers’ brothers have generally received more recognition by art historians, Mark Sullivan, in James M. and William Hart, American Landscape Painters, quotes a publication’s comment that her “few known landscapes are competent work not unlike that of her brothers.” 1 She is known for several paintings, including Lake George; Forest Interiors; Cattle Watering in a River and the 1888 still-life Oranges. William Gerdts observed in his exhibition catalog, Women Artists of America, 1707-1964, that “Mrs. Julie Hart Beers Kempson became the only woman artist of the century to specialize in landscape.” That she was a rarity is easily explained, Gerdts wrote: “It is perhaps not surprising to find so few women landscapists, since the rigors of painting outdoors and the unseemliness of women engaging in this activity during the Victorian era acted as a deterrent.”2

Julie Hart Beers Kempson demonstrated that women landscape painters were the equal of men, even given the “rigors of painting outdoors.” While largely unappreciated in her own time, her talent and dedication not only produced outstanding works of art, but also broke important ground for the female landscapists who would follow her.

1. Paul E. Sternberg, Sr., Art by American Women: Selections from the Collection of Louise and Alan Sellars. (Gainesville, Ga.: Brenau College, 1991), p.20.
2: William H. Gerdts, Women Artists of America 1707-1964 (Newark, N.J.: Newark Museum, 1965), p. 8.

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Willard Leroy Metcalf (1858-1925)


Giverny, 1887
Willard Metcalf, a founding member of the “Ten American Painters,” worked in an Impressionist style tempered by atmospheric poetry


                             
By Alexandra A Jopp


Willard Metcalf, a contemporary of Childe Hassam, Mary Cassatt, and John Twachtman, was a well-regarded Impressionist painterartist, teacher and illustrator who became known as a classic painter of the landscapes of his native New England. One of the “Ten American Painters” (also known as “The Ten”), a group whose members resigned from the Society of American Artists to form their own (small) association, Metcalf influenced many painters while teaching at Cooper Union and the Art Students League in New York. He achieved great fame in his lifetime, winning a Webb Prize in 1896 for his painting Gloucester Harbor (1895), being elected to membership in the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and having his work exhibited at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

The Ten-Cent Breakfast, 1887. 
Summer at Hadlyme, 1914. 

Willard Metcalf sitting at front of dining tables on side porch of Griswold House, c. 1905.


Willard Leroy Metcalf, known to his friends as “Metty,” was born July 1, 1858, in Lowell, Mass., to Greenleaf Willard, a violinist with the Boston Orchestra and Margaret Jan Gallop. He spent much of his childhood in Maine before the family moved to Cambridge, Mass., in 1871. His early artistic gifts were celebrated by his parents, and Metcalf started working in a Boston wood engraving shop while attending classes at the Massachusetts Normal Art School (now the Massachusetts College of Art.) At age 16, he was apprenticed to the painter George Loring Brown, and two years later, he was admitted to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts School, where he received one of the school’s first scholarships and studied under William Rimmer.

In 1883, Metcalf went to Europe for the first time, and while there, he traveled broadly, painting in England, Italy, North Africa and several French locations. In 1885, near Fontainebleau, he completed Sunset at Grez (1885), a stunning success from his early art career. He studied in Paris at the prestigious Academie Académie Julian and painted landscapes at Grez near Barbizon, Pont-Aven, Brittany and Giverny, in the company of some of the best painters of his generation. Drawn by French Impressionist Claude Monet’s reputation, he may have been the first American artist to arrive to Giverny in 1886 before the area became a veritable colony of American Impressionists. While Metcalf’s landscapes of the late 1880s reveal increasing skill in brushwork and the use of light, the artist remained partial to the atmospheric poetry of Tonalism and the Barbizon tradition of painting outdoors. He did not copy the technique of Monet, whose children he tutored in the study of flowers and birds. Rather than adopting a consistent style, in fact, Metcalf allowed his subjects to establish determine his technique.

Poppy Garden, 1905.


In 1888, Metcalf returned to the Boston area, where he held a one-man exhibition at the St. Botolph Club and taught at the Women’s Art School at Copper Cooper Union and the Art Students League. Two years later, in search of portrait commissions, he moved to New York City. His prolific year of 1895 was especially notable formarked by bright, sun-lit outdoor scenes inspired by his summers in Gloucester, Mass.

Metcalf was a sociable man who enjoyed gathering with companions for long evenings of dining and drinking, but however he had unhappy and tawdry relationships with women, marrying twice and divorcing twice. His first wife, Marguerite Beaufort Hailé, was a stage performer from New Orleans who was 20 years younger than he washis junior and served as his model for murals he painted for a New York courthouse. They began living together in 1899 and were married in 1903. The marriage was brief and ended when Marguerite ran away with painter Robert Nisbet, a former student of Metcalf’s.

In 1909, the artist, attracted by the area’s winter scenes, moved to Cornish, N.H. According to Deborah Van Buren, “there are probably more known paintings of the Cornish landscape by Metcalf than by any other colony members.”1 Writer Catherine Beach Ely said that “he gives us the mood of snow-filled air and the frost feeling of Winter among lonely hills and trees; [he] gives us also the first disintegrated breach of Spring on deep New England snows.”2

Winter Harmony.

Spring came again to the artist’s life in 1911 when he married Henriette Alice McCrea, with whom he had two children. This marriage also failed, however.

Metcalf had a gift for drawing and a fortune for travel, and from 1920 to 1924, he painted all over New England. He continued to produce compelling scenes of nature in its seasonal phases almost until his death at his home in New York in 1925.

Mountain Lakes, Olden, Norway, 1913. 
Cornish Hills.

1: Shipp, Steve. American Art Colonies, 1850-1930: A Historical Guide to America’s Original Art Colonies and Their Artists (Westport, Conn., and London: Greenwood Press, 1996), 15.

2: Shipp, Steve. American Art Colonies, 1850-1930: A Historical Guide to America’s Original Art Colonies and Their Artists (Westport, Conn., and London: Greenwood Press, 1996), 15.

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Frederic Edwin Church (1826-1900)


Above the Clouds at Sunrise, 1849.
      
American painter, landscape specialist and leading figure of the Hudson River School

By Alexandra A Jopp

Frederic Edwin Church was among the most celebrated artists of the late 1850s and 1860s. As Thomas Cole’s most successful pupil, Church worked as a young man within the milieu of the Hudson River School. He was described by historian Gwendolyn Owens as “a master of the panoramic landscape,”1 and by the 1850s, according to writer Joe Sherman, he “had become a painter to watch, one who critics claimed had a ‘true feeling for art’ and who was heading toward an ‘original path.’”2 Church’s harmonies of color, light and luminosity helped to turn historical landscape into a popular art form.

Hooker’s Party Coming to Hartford, 1846.
Falls of the Tequendama near Bogotá, New Granada (1864)

Church was born into a wealthy and prominent Connecticut family on May 4, 1826. He showed early artistic talent and, as a teenager, studied in his hometown with local painters Alexander Hamilton Emmons (1816-84) and Benjamin Hutchins Coe (1799-1883). In May 1844, Church moved to Catskill, N.Y., to work with noted landscape painter Thomas Cole. Church’s father, Joseph, a silversmith and watchmaker, paid $300 per year for technical instruction for his son. In accepting Church into his studio, Cole must have seen a young artist who shared his thoughts and spirits and held extraordinary promise. Church was only 19 years old when one of his paintings was accepted for exhibition by the National Academy of Design. Three years later, he became the youngest person ever to be granted full membership in the National Academy.

In the summer of 1850, Church made his first trip to Maine, and several seascape paintings resulted from the visit. Shortly thereafter, in the spring of 1853, Church, inspired by German naturalist and explorer Alexander von Humboldt and his scientific travelogues, made his first trip to South America. For five months, accompanied by his friend Cyrus Field (whose company would later be responsible for laying the first transatlantic cable), Church focused on landscape painting in relation to modern science, completing pencil studies and oil sketches of volcanoes, mountains and river scenes. Upon his return to New York, Church reproduced exotic tropical landscapes in such paintings as Tamaca Palms (1854, Corcoran Gallery of Art) and La Magdalena (1854, National Academy Museum and School of Fine Arts.) However, the work that brought him his greatest fame in the United States and abroad was a panoramic view of Niagara Falls. Niagara (1857, Corcoran Gallery of Art) was completed in two months and was exhibited by itself throughout North America and England.




La Magdalena (Scene on the Magdalena), 1854.

The Natural Bridge, Virginia, 1852.
In 1867, two years after losing a son and a daughter to diphtheria, Church and his family sailed for Europe. During the visit, he went to London, Rome and the Near East and studied classical sites in Greece. In the summer and fall, the family traveled through Switzerland and northern Italy before settling in Rome, where Church established a studio. During this time, the artist developed plans to build a Persian villa on a hilltop above his New York farm that which would offer him views of the Hudson River and Catskill Mountains. Church, who was fascinated with Orientalism and exotica, never visited Persia, but the architectural features that he visualized share a common Islamic essence. The family moved into their new home in 1872. Seven years later, Church’s painting Icebergs (1861), which was inspired by an expedition to the coast of Labrador, Canada, became the first American painting to be sold for more than $1 million, bringing $2.5 million. Church’s paintings continue to set records on the art market. In 1989, Sotheby’s sold Home by the Lake (1852) for more than $8 million.3

Icebergs and Wreck in Sunset.
Autumn, 1875.
In his final years, Church continued to travel broadly. He spent winters in Mexico, escaping the harsh Northeast weather that was made more difficult by his rheumatism. His wife, Isabel, died in 1899, after which Church’s health declined. He died at the house of a friend in New York City, unable to get to his fabled and beloved home “Olana” (which is now a National Historic Landmark and a center for Church study.)

Church’s paintings are reminiscences on experiences gained from traveling around the world. His works present rural images from New England with the same elegance as tropical exotica from South America. As a landscape artist, Church, using a combination of romantic realism and ideological anatomy, established a new direction for American art.

In the Andes, 1878. 

1: Shipp, Steve. American Art Colonies, 1850-1930: A Historical Guide to America’s Original Art Colonies and Their Artists (Westport, Conn., and London: Greenwood Press, 1996), 66.

2: Shipp, Steve. American Art Colonies, 1850-1930: A Historical Guide to America’s Original Art Colonies and Their Artists (Westport, Conn., and London: Greenwood Press, 1996), 67.

3: Vogel, Carol. “Lost Treasure to Be Auctioned.” The New York Times, May 7 1999.

Saturday, 8 August 2009

John Carleton Wiggins (1848-1932)



A master of form, influenced by French and English patrons, Carleton Wiggins became famous for painting pastoral scenes of New England

By Alexandra A. Jopp

John Carleton Wiggins (more commonly known as just Carleton Wiggins) was born to Guy and Adelaide Ludlum Wiggins on March 4, 1848, in Turners (now Harriman), N। Y., west of the Hudson River. Wiggins received his early education in Middletown N.Y., and later attended public schools in Brooklyn. As a youth, he took a job at an insurance company on Wall Street, but he worked there for only two years before realizing that he had neither the courage nor the talent to devote himself to the business world. Instead, he began to study art under Johann Carmiencke, a romantic landscape painter of the Hudson River School. Under Carmiencke, Carleton turned his attention primarily to the study of landscapes.

After dedicating some time to drawing at the National Academy, Wiggins followed the guidance and encouragement of his patron, Joseph Crafton of New York, and studied with the renowned landscape specialist George Inness (1825-94). In 1870, Wiggins first exhibited at the Academy. Two years later, he married Mary Clucas, with whom he had four children, the oldest of whom – Guy Carleton Wiggins – became an established painter who specialized in Winter cityscapes.

Seaside Sheep Pastures
The elder Wiggins painted landscapes for several years but, having long admired works by Constant Troyon, a French animal painter, he turned to cattle painting. He realized immediate success by selling a large painting of a Holstein bull for $4,000 to Crafton, who presented it to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.1 Soon after, Wiggins spent two years in Europe, primarily in Cornwall, England, where there was a large colony of young English painters. In the spring of 1881, Wiggins was admitted to the Paris Salon, where he exhibited Shepherd and his Flock (1866), which is now in a private collection. Among Wiggins’ principal paintings are The Wanderers (1887), Cattle in a Pool (1883), Plough Horse (1899) and Midsummer (1899). In 1894, Wiggins won a gold medal at the Paris Salon for his sheep-filled landscapes, and two years later, he exhibited at the Royal Academy of Art in London.

Wiggins became an associate member of the National Academy in 1890 and a full member in 1906. He exhibited at the National Academy, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and the Boston Art Club, among others. In the early 1900s, he traveled to Nantucket, Mass., and Long Island, N.Y., but mostly, he painted in the artist colony of Old Lyme, Conn., where he gained a new reputation as a “Tonalist” painter. His Tonalism showed in his harmonious colors, fluidly defined forms and romantic appreciation of nature.

Wiggins sometimes took his cattle painting abroad, notably to the Netherlands. In his works, the cow, traditionally seen as “a slow-moving, mild-mannered creature whose milk and cheese provided nourishment for society, symbolized the beneficial attributes of rural life, and Holland’s old-fashioned windmills and picturesque canals afforded the ideal backdrop for therapeutic scenes of lowing cattle.”2 In other words, in his Dutch utopia, Carleton Wiggins captured a relaxed lifestyle that constituted a productive and spiritual part of everyday life in a way that brought its positive influence into the parlors of American homes.
Wiggins died on June 11, 1932, in Old Lyme, Conn., home to the famed artist’s colony.

1: “In the World of Art: Exhibitions of the Week and General Art Gossip.” The New York Times, April 28, 1895: 13.
2: Kahn, Annette. “Dutch Utopia: Paintings by Antimodern American Artists of the Nineteenth Century,” Smithsonian Studies in American Art, vol. 3, no. 2. (Spring 1989): 51.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Frederick DeBourg Richards (1822-1903)


Pennsylvania Landscape.

Painter of Pennsylvania landscapes and marine subjects of New Jersey

By Alexandra A Jopp

Influenced early in his career by the Hudson River School and Luminist preferences, Frederick DeBourg Richards specialized in landscape and maritime scene. By the middle of the 19th century, he ranked among the most accomplished artists practicing realism in the United States. Over time, his brushwork became somewhat more painterly, however he never abandoned his dedication to meticulously accurate observation.


Frederick DeBourg Richards was born on June 24, 1822, in Wilmington, Del. He lived in New York in the 1840s before moving to Philadelphia in 1848, where he spent most of his remaining years with his wife and two daughters. Richards considered himself mostly self-taught as a painter, and he achieved success as a landscape artist by exhibiting his paintings at the American Art-Union, an exclusive association in New York City where the finest American artists were eager to show their works.



Richards thrived in the stimulating cultural environment he found in Philadelphia. He opened a daguerreotype gallery across from Independence Hall that was in business until 1855, and his actual-size daguerreotypes were particularly notable. His account book notates sales to such major Philadelphia artists as James Hamilton, William Trost Richards and Peter Rothermel. Richards often exhibited daguerreotypes at the Franklin Institute’s annual exhibitions. His collection contains images from 1850 to 1864, most of which capture the changing architectural landscape of the city, and can be found at the Library Company of Philadelphia. Richards’ subjects can generally be divided into two categories: historic buildings in and around the Philadelphia area and commissioned images of the houses and estates of wealthy men.

Richards was also known as a manufacturer of stereoscopes, and an 1853 article in The Journal of the Franklin Institute noted the improvements he had made to that instrument.1 In December 1853, it was reported that he exhibited at the Franklin Institute and showed a large stereoscope with a revolving cylinder.

In the mid-1850s, Richards began traveling to Europe, visiting England, France, Italy, Switzerland, Germany and Belgium. In 1868, he moved to Paris but returned soon after to Philadelphia. A series of sketches dated June 19 through September 22, 1855, depicted the traditional European tour and was published in 1857 under the title Random Sketches, or, What I Saw in Europe: From the Portfolio of an Artist.

Throughout his life, Richards pursued a career as a landscape and marine painter while making his living primarily through daguerreotypes. His landscapes were mostly of the Pennsylvania countryside and scenes from surrounding states, including tranquil images of the Potomac and Delaware River Valleys. He also made numerous visits to the New Jersey shore, which inspired him to produce some of his finest paintings, such as Atlantic City (1881) and Salt Marshes at Atlantic City in October, which he exhibited at the Pennsylvania Academy’s annual show in 1878. While living in Philadelphia, Richards was an active member of the Philadelphia Society of Artists, the Artist’s Fund Society, the Art Club of Philadelphia and other local associations. His work was exhibited regularly at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the National Academy of Design and the Art Institute of Chicago.
Richards died in his Philadelphia residence in 1903 and was buried in nearby West Laurel Hill cemetery.


1: The Journal of the Franklin Institute, vol. 5 (February 1853), pp. 285-87.
For more information please visit Questroyal Fine Art Gallery, NYC at http://www.questroyalfineart.com/

Monday, 3 August 2009

Anthony Thieme


A Cape Ann Retreat Oil on Canvas, Circa 1929.





By Alexandra A. Jopp

Anthony Thieme was one of America’s most successful painters, with a long and prolific career that spanned the first half of the twentieth century. His story is a splendid illustration of the United States as the “land of opportunity.” While growing up in The Netherlands, he showed artistic leanings and a love of color. His passion, however, was not supported by his parents. They did not think art was a serious career choice, and they sent their son off to naval school. That did not last long, though, and as soon as he turned 14, Thieme enrolled in Holland’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts. Afterward, he studied for two years at the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague. Yet even after this training, Thieme still could not convince his parents to support his desire to become an artist. So, at the age of 17, he left home. After several years traveling around Europe, Thieme, barely able to make ends meet, crossed the Atlantic, a trip that would lead to him becoming one of the most distinguished painters in the history of American art.

Born Antonius Johannes Thieme in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, in 1888, the artist is much more remembered in the United States than in his native country. His reputation as a leading landscape and marine painter and as a premier figure of the Rockport School has lasted to this day.

Rockport Afternoon.
Oil on Canvas, Circa 1929.

Thieme’s career began in Germany, where he was employed as a stage designer while he developed his painting skills. After three years, he traveled to Switzerland, then Italy, where he worked as a stage designer in Turin. In 1909, he enrolled in the Scuola di Belle Arti, where he studied for a year before moving on to Naples. He spent two years sketching and painting in Naples, then traveled to London before taking the proceeds from the sale of some of his sketches and booking passage to New York.

Thieme settled in New York City in 1917 and began painting Broadway backdrops. Though the pay was good, the work was unfulfilling for the young and ambitious artist. He soon moved to Boston, where he kept a studio in Copley Square in which he produced easel paintings and illustrations.

In 1929, Thieme married Lillian Beckett and bought a cottage in Rockport, Mass. He set up a studio in the area, which had become a summer resort destination for nationally-known artists. According to a 1961 account by John Kieran, “There are studios on almost every street, and every day in summer you see outdoor groups of pupils working under different masters at picturesque points along the roadside.” 1 Thieme opened the Thieme Summer School of Art in Rockport in 1929 and served as its director until 1943.

Rockport Waterfront
Oil on Canvas, Circa 1935. 

Thieme’s favorite subjects were the historic fishing ports on the north shore of Massachusetts. His admiration for the gleaming colors and the lyric quality of the marine subjects dominated his style. “The open air is my studio,” Thieme said. “A good landscape painter must paint fast to catch the light of any hour. Unless you know what to put in, what to leave out, the result is a mess.”

Thieme is one of only a handful of American marine and landscape painters working in the first half of the twentieth century whose art occupies the walls of museums and private collections. He was honored with numerous awards during his career, including: the Delano Prize from the New York Watercolor Club, the Athenaeum Prize from the Connecticut Academy of Fine Arts in 1930; the Lucien Powell Citizen Jury Prize from the Los Angeles Museum in 1931, the Gold Medal for the Best Painting in New England from the Contemporary Artists Association in 1944 and a prestigious award for the best marine painting at the Pan-American Art Show in Miami in 1949. He exhibited around the world, at the National Academy of Design, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, the Corcoran Gallery of Art and venues in Belgium, Holland and France.

Main Street, Rockport. 
Today, Thieme’s art is included in the permanent collections of the Boston Museum of Fine Art, the City of New Haven (Conn.) Collection, the Montclair Art Museum, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Thieme died in 1954 in Greenwich, Conn.

For more information please visit Questroyal Fine Art Gallery, NYC at http://www.questroyalfineart.com/

Fitz Hugh Lane (1804- 1865)


Stage Fort across Gloucester Harbor, 1862
Fitz Henry Lane.

Painting in the English and Dutch seascape tradition, Lane became one of America’s most admired marine painters, a skillful lithographer and the founding father of ‘Luminism.’

By Alexandra A. Jopp

Fitz Hugh Lane (also known as Fitz Henry Lane), a founding figure of “Luminism,” was born Nathaniel Rogers Lane in Gloucester, Mass., on Dec. 19, 1804. A child prodigy, Lane would grow up to become one of the premier American artists of the nineteenth century, with works on display in 27 museums and the White House. His art retains a high status among collectors, and in 2004, his Manchester Harbor (1853) sold for $5.5 million at an auction in Boston.

Fitz Hugh Lane (1804-1865), Brace's Rock, Eastern Point, Gloucester, c. 1864, oil on canvas, John Wilmderding Collection.

This posthumous prosperity, though, is in stark contrast to Lane’s difficult childhood. His oldest brother, Steven, died in 1815, a year after his father, Jonathan, a local sail maker, died from fever. Lane himself was unable to walk, having lost the use of his legs to infantile paralysis soon after turning 2 years old. Through these hardships, he relied on a deep spirituality, and he began to find himself in drawing. At about 15, he worked for a brief time as a shoemaker, but as his nephew Edward Lane observed, “after a while, seeing that he could draw pictures better than he could make shoes, he went to Boston and took lessons in drawing and painting and became a marine artist.”1

In Boston, Lane worked as an apprentice in Pendleton’s lithography shop, where he made small topographic sketches of Boston Harbor and found success with View of the Town of Gloucester, Mass. (1836). Lane also worked at, among other places, the lithography shop of artist Thomas Moran (sometime between 1835-1840) before forming his own lithography shop with friend J.W.A. Scott, a marine painter. Here, Lane produced panoramic scenes of coastal New England and, inspired by European artists Robert Salmon (1775-1848) and J.M.W. Turner (1775-1851), began to paint in oils. His subjects included landscapes, marines and, occasionally, ship portraits. He turned his full attention to marine painting when he moved back to Gloucester in 1848, perfecting “luminist” techniques, such as painting “a cool, undiluted light that rendered that harbor and shore with great clarity and captured the subtle changes in atmospheric effects.”2 His works would bring fame to his hometown: “It was Gloucester’s native son, Fitz Hugh Lane,” one art historian noted, “who immortalized the town in numerous painted views from 1848 until his death in 1865.”3 He built a house overlooking the harbor and lived there for the rest of his life, making occasional trips to Maine, where he produced images of dawn and dusk in hot cadmium colors such as Twilight on the Kennebec (1849), which is considered to be one of the premier expressions of his artistic vision.

Fitz Hugh Lane (1804-1865), Stage Rocks and Western Shore of Gloucester Outer Harbor, 1857, oil on canvas, John Wilmerding Collection.
Lane’s work matured further after 1850. His paintings from this time are characterized by a new feeling of openness, and the last two last lithographs he produced – Castine from Hospital Island (1855) and View of Gloucester (1856) – are regarded as his finest prints. Castine, in particular, is his most striking lithograph, and it clearly captures his technical and stylistic advances. Lane’s depictions of seascapes resulted not from a desire to follow the fashion of his European peers but, rather, from a deep-rooted interest. And perhaps no one in Europe could have painted the extraordinary beauty of the azure coasts of New England with the expressiveness and luminosity of Fitz Hugh Lane.

Ship Starlight, c. 1860.


1: Craig, James A. Fitz H. Lane: An Artist’s Voyage through Nineteenth-Century America (Charleston, S.C.: The History Press, 2006), p. 31.
2: Shipp, Steve. American Art Colonies, 1850-1930: A Historical Guide to America’s Original Art Colonies and Their Artists (Westport, Conn.; London: Greenwood Press, 1996), p. 38.
3: Ibid.


For more information please visit Questroyal Fine Art Gallery, NYC at http://www.questroyalfineart.com/

Eastman Johnson (1824-1906) - Painting America


One of the most elegant artists of the last half of the nineteenth century, Eastman Johnson became famous for his insights into American culture and his efforts to establish the Metropolitan Museum of Art

By Alexandra A. Jopp



In the nineteenth century, esteemed American artists were often credited with titles that tied them to Europe: Thomas Moran was the “American Turner,” John Henry Twachtman was the “American Monet,” Childe Hassam was the “American Sisley,” and Eastman Johnson was granted the appellation of the “American Rembrandt.” Though such comparisons to Old World brilliance were meant as honors, American artists often rejected them and worked to create a unique style that was detached from European models. Thus Johnson, even while working in seventeenth-century Dutch traditions, painted subjects that were distinctly American.

Fiddling His Way, 1866. 
The Reprimand, 1880. 
This painting represents a room in an old New England home, with carved mantel, fire-place, and other surroundings to call up the good old time. An old gentlemen seated near the fire-place, is administering a slight reprimand, while a girl twelve or thirteen years old, is turning away in a half-sad and half-stubborn manner. Eastman Johnson may be fairly described as a representative American, and as rivaling the ability of the modern continental masters. 
The Boyhood of Abraham Lincoln, 1868.

Eastman Johnson was born in Lovell, Maine, in 1824 and grew up in Fryeburg and Augusta. At an early age, he began working in the dry goods business, and in 1840, he was sent to a lithography shop in Boston. However, he found lithography to be monotonous and unfulfilling, and four years later, he returned to Augusta and worked as a crayon portraitist. He had a natural aptitude for art and attended art school in New York before moving to Washington, D.C. Working for the U.S. Senate, he painted portraits of Dolly Madison, John Quincy Adams, Daniel Webster and other famous public figures. Soon after, in 1846, he went back to Boston, where he opened a studio in Tremont Temple and produced portraits in crayon of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and his family, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Nathaniel Hawthorne.

The Hatch Family, 1870-1871.

In 1849, with the encouragement of the American Art Union, Johnson, accompanied by George Henry Hall, sailed to Europe for what would be six years of study. Johnson settled in Düsseldorf, Germany, a popular destination for young American artists. He enrolled in Düsseldorf Académie, where he started to work with colors, and in 1851, he entered the studio of Emanuel Luetze. During a stay in The Hague, Johnson studied seventeenth-century Dutch and Flemish paintings, mainly works by Rembrandt and Van Dyck, and captured old Dutch traditions. Under this Dutch influence, the artist’s style evolved to include richer colors, dynamic design and exciting contrasts of light and shadow. Before returning to Washington in 1855, he spent two months in Paris, where he worked briefly with the French academic painter, Thomas Couture.

In the two years after his return to the United States, Johnson spent time in Superior, Wisc., painting the Indians of that area. After a short stay in Cincinnati in 1858, he moved to New York and opened a studio in the Old University Building in Washington Square. At an April 1859 exhibition at the National Academy of Design in New York, he showed three crayon drawings, one of which – Negro Life in the South, or Old Kentucky Home – would come to be regarded as his most original and remarkable work. This large painting – which depicts a moment in the life of slaves in the nation’s capital – brought fame to Johnson and established him as a major American genre artist. Art critic Henry Tuckerman saw in the picture an indication of the progress of genre painting: “We realize how national genre art … has advanced. … .Not only is the style more finished, but the significance is deeper, the sentiment more delicate.” 1 This picture made him famous, and lifted him into a prominent position in American art. In 1860, he was elected a member of the National Academy, and one of his paintings, contributed to the Exposition Universalle of 1867, won him recognition from the Academy. 

Negro Life in the South, or Old Kentucky Home, 1859.


In 1869, Johnson married Elizabeth Buckley of Troy, N.Y., with whom he had a daughter. The following year, he visited Nantucket, Mass., and in 1871, he built a house there where he would spend his summers. In Nantucket, he worked with rural subjects and produced a series of studies of cranberry harvesting.

Over the course of his fruitful career, Johnson developed a reputation as an accomplished and adept painter of not only individual and group portraits but also urban scenes and landscapes. He had a feel for color, and his depictions of groups of farmers are often charismatic in tone. His subjects range from farm scenes to country house interiors to rural genre painting. The Dutch influence can be seen in paintings such as The Mount Vernon Kitchen (1857) and Susan Ray’s Kitchen (1875).

The Old Mount Vernon, 1857.
The Mount Vernon Kitchen, 1859.

In 1906, at the age of 82, an ill and feeble Johnson began to show signs of heart weakness. He died in New York, surrounded by his wife Elizabeth, his daughter Ethel and his son-in-law Alfred Ronald Conkling.

Notes
1: Patricia Johnston, Seeing High and Low: Representing Social Conflict in American Visual Culture (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006), p. 106.

For more information please visit Questroyal Fine Art Gallery, NYC at http://www.questroyalfineart.com/