American Painting


Examples of the work of early artists are in Faneuil Hall, Massachusetts Historical Society Building, Athenaeum Library, and Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.; Yale School of Fine Arts, New Haven, Conn. ; Lenox and Historical Society Libraries, National Academy of Design, and Metropolitan Museum, New York City; Pennsylvania Museum of Fine Arts, and Independence Hall, Philadelphia ; and in the Corcoran Gallery and Capitol, Washington ; also many are in private galleries and family collections.

Benjamin West, although American by birth, belongs so obviously to the English School that he has been considered in that place.

John Singleton Copley (1737—1815), born in Boston, was at first a portrait painter in that city. In 1774 he visited Italy, where he studied especially the works of Titian and Correggio.

A few years later he established himself in London, where he painted many historical pictures. In portraiture his manner is rather hard, and his attitudes stiff. There is good painting in the accessories.

Several of his historical pictures are in the National Gallery, London, among which the most noted is “Death of Lord Chatham.”

Many of his portraits are in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and in private families in Massachusetts.

Gilbert Charles Stuart (1755—1828), portrait painter, born in Narragansett, R. I., was a pupil of West in London. He settled in Philadelphia and later in Boston, where he died.

He painted portraits of several of the presidents, as well as of most of the distinguished men of the Revolution. These possess much force, and express the various characters of the sitters as no other early portraits do. This was the chief endeavor of Stuart ; he believed that the form, lines, and color of the face betray individual characteristics, and used to study his subjects long and critically.

He painted several portraits of Washington, the best of which (unfinished) is in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, together with other pictures.

Charles W. Peale (1741—1827), born in Chesterton, Md., and a pupil of West and Copley, has given us likenesses of very distinguished men of his time, including Washington, whom he painted many times.

Over one hundred examples of his work are in Independence Hall, Philadelphia. They possess no decided artistic merit.

His son, Rembrandt Peale (1787—1860), studied with West in London, and painted for a time in Paris. In his early years he produced some imaginative pictures, but afterward devoted himself to portrait painting.

His portrait of Washington in the Senate Chamber of the Capitol, Washington, is often reproduced.

Other portrait painters of note are John Wesley Jarvis (178o—1834); Thomas Sully (1783—1872); Edward Malbone (1777-1807), celebrated for his beautiful miniatures ; Henry Inman (1801—1846), also a painter of genre; Charles Loring Elliott (1812—1868) ; Chester Harding (1792—1866) ; George Fuller (1822—1884) ; and George Healy (1808—1894).

John Trumbull (1756—1843) was born in Lebanon, Conn. His life was divided between military and diplomatic pursuits and the practice of painting. For several years he was a member of General Washington’s staff.

He is noted particularly for his Revolutionary pictures, which contain portraits of many chief actors in the scenes. They are interesting, but possess little real art value.

Several are in the Yale Art School, New Haven, Conn.

Emanuel Leutze (1816—1868), born in Germany, and educated in the Düsseldorf School, exerted some influence on American painting of his time. He travelled widely and painted scenes in the histories of many nations, but was particularly fond of those connected with America. Everything adventurous appealed to him.

Some of his best-known pictures are ” Columbus before the Queen,” “Washington crossing the Delaware,” John Knox admonishing Mary Stuart.”

Good examples of his portraits are those of Secretary Seward and General Grant, both well known by reproduction.

His work may be seen in the Capitol, and Corcoran Gallery, Washington, and many private galleries.

Washington Allston (1779–1843) was born in South Carolina. In 1801 he went to London, and studied in the Royal Academy under the presidency of Benjamin West. Later he spent several years of study in Rome. In 1818 he returned to America and lived for the rest of his life in Boston and Cambridge, Mass. He was a man of strong intellectual powers and possessed a most refined and poetic taste.

He painted religious and historical pictures, and also some ideal heads.

His work is very imaginative, and founded little upon any study of nature.

Several of his finest works are in private galleries in and near Boston. ” Belshazzar’s Feast,” unfinished, is in the Museum of Fine Arts with several other pictures.

Thomas Cole (1801-1848), born in England, came to America when a child and became the pioneer landscape painter of this country. He won his first fame by painting autumnal scenery along the shores of the Hudson.

His drawing is good, but his light and color are somewhat unnatural.

He also painted allegorical pictures which have been engraved.

The best known of these are probably “The Voyage of Life” and ” Course of Empire.”

Most of his work is in private galleries.

Following Cole as landscape painters come John F. Ken-sett (1818-1872), whose pictures are dreamy and poetic ; Frederic Edwin Church (1826), famous for his portrayal of mountain scenery and the grand in nature, such as ” Head of Andes,” ” Cotopaxi,” ” Niagara,” etc. ; Albert Bierstadt(1830) and Thomas Moran (1837), painters of the Rocky Mountain and Californian scenery; A. H. Wyant (1836-1892), George Inness (1825-1894), Samuel Coleman (1833 –), and R. Swain Gifford (1840), some of our best landscapists; and George L. Brown, best known by his pictures of Italian scenery.

William T. Bradford (1830-1892), who has painted ice-bergs, W. T. Richards (1833), and Mauritz F. H. DeHaas (1832-1895), born in Holland, are well-known marine painters.

William Morris Hunt (1824-1879), born in Brattleboro, Vt., became a pupil of Couture in Paris in 1848. Afterward he became a follower of Millet at Barbizon, and, returning to Boston in 1855, introduced the Fontainebleau-Barbizon (see French School) methods of painting to America. He opened an art school in Boston and received a large number of pupils, by whom he was greatly admired, and over whom he exerted a powerful influence. It is safe to say that his is one of the great names in the history of American painting.

His works cover a wide range: history, allegory, portrait, and the purely ideal.

The allegorical decorations of the State Capitol in Albany, N.Y., were painted by him.

Well-known pictures are ” The Bugle-Call,” ” The Drummer Boy,” ” Woman with Lute,” and ” The Bathers.”

Elihu Vedder (1836 –), who has lived in Italy for many years, is noted for the weird, imaginative, poetic nature of his designs. He makes his subtile curves express meaning in a wonderful way.

His work is wanting in fulness and harmony of-color.

Noted pictures are” Cumaean Sibyl,” “Questioner of the Sphinx,” and ” Lair of the Sea-Serpent.”

His designs for the ” Rubaiyat,” by Omar Khayyám, are remarkable. Some of the best known of these are ” The Last Man,” ” The Cup of Death,” and ” The Cup of Love.”

A few American figure and portrait painters are living abroad, and are winning fame there, as well as at home. Prominent among them are John S. Sargent, James A. McNeill Whistler, Edwin A. Abbey, Frederick Bridgman, Edwin L. Weeks, Walter Gay, Charles Sprague Pearce, and Edwin H. Blashfield.

Among the many who are doing good work at home, and whose pictures rank high in the frequent art exhibitions of the day, only a few names can be noticed– Eastman Johnson (1824), Winslow Homer (1836), John La Farge (1835), decorative artist, William M. Chase, Kenyon Cox, Abbott H. Thayer, Walter Shirlaw, Childe Hassam, J. Carroll Beckwith, Edward E. Simmons, J. Alden Weir, Edmund C. Tarbell, Frank W. Benson, J. Wells Champney, and Robert W. Vonnoh.