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Ames, Ezra (05 May 1768–23 February 1836), painter, engraver, and gilder, was born Ezra Emes in Framingham, Massachusetts, the son of Jesse Emes, a soldier and farmer, and Betty Bent. Ames’s mother died when he was seven. Nothing is known of his education; he may have been educated at home. In 1790 his father, who had remarried, moved the family to Staatsburg, New York. By that time Ezra had chosen to spell his surname Ames and was working as a journeyman painter and craftsman in Worcester, Massachusetts. In 1793 he settled in Albany, New York, which was his home for the rest of his life. In October 1794 he married Zipporah Wood of Uxbridge, Massachusetts, and returned with her to Albany, where their three children were born....

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Anderson, Alexander (21 April 1775–17 January 1870), engraver, was born in New York city, the son of John Anderson, a printer and publisher, and Sarah Lockwood. By 1790 the Andersons were living on Wall Street; they were Episcopalians, of moderate means, with varied interests and social contacts. The family was close-knit and affectionate....

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Bellows, George Wesley (12 August 1882–08 January 1925), painter and printmaker, was born in Columbus, Ohio, the son of George Bellows, a builder and contractor, and Anna Smith. In 1901 Bellows entered Ohio State University, where his extracurricular activities included athletics and art. He dropped out of college near the end of his third year and in the fall of 1904 headed for New York City, where he intended to train for a professional career as an illustrator. Bellows enrolled in the New York School of Art, where ...

Article

Martin R. Kalfatovic

Biddle, George (24 January 1885–06 November 1973), artist, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Algernon Sydney Biddle, a lawyer, and Frances Robinson. Though the Biddles were a leading family of Pennsylvania, George’s own immediate family, though quite comfortable, was never wealthy. Biddle attended Groton School in Massachusetts and Harvard College. After graduation in 1908, he spent a year in Texas and Mexico working on a cattle ranch to build up his fragile health. Returning to Harvard, he received a law degree in 1911, but, although he was admitted to the Pennsylvania bar, he never practiced....

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Birch, William Russell (09 April 1755–07 August 1834), enamelist, engraver, and painter, was born in Warwickshire, England, the son of Thomas Birch, a successful surgeon, and Mary Russell. Because Birch was unsuccessful at Latin school, his wealthy and paternalistic cousin, William Russell of Birmingham, took him into his care and eventually apprenticed him to his friend, the London jeweler and goldsmith Thomas Jeffreys. After six years, Birch left to study enamel painting with Henry Spicer. In 1775 he exhibited two enamel miniatures at the Society of Artists....

Article

Bodmer, Karl (11 February 1809–30 October 1893), artist, was born in Zurich, Switzerland, the son of Heinrich Bodmer, a cotton merchant, and his second wife Elisabeth Meier. After a brief elementary education, Bodmer was apprenticed to his uncle Johann Jakob Meier, from whom he learned sketching, engraving, and watercolor, the medium of his finest works....

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Nancy Mowll Mathews

Cassatt, Mary (22 May 1844–13 June 1926), artist, was born Mary Stevenson Cassatt in Allegheny City (now part of Pittsburgh), Pennsylvania, the daughter of Robert Simpson Cassatt and Katherine Kelso Johnston. At the time of her birth, her father was a forwarding merchant, buying raw materials from the frontier states and selling them to eastern manufacturers, but in later years he opened an investment firm in Philadelphia. Her mother was the daughter of Alexander Johnston, the first director of the Bank of Pittsburgh....

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Mary Cassatt. Oil on canvas, c. 1880-1884, by Edgar Degas. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of the Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation and the Regents' Major Acquisitions Fund, Smithsonian Institution.

Article

Chapman, John Gadsby (11 August 1808–28 November 1889), artist, was born in Alexandria, Virginia, the son of Charles T. Chapman, a businessman, and Sarah Margaret Gadsby. He was named for his maternal grandfather John Gadsby, a well-known tavern keeper. Chapman grew up in Alexandria and attended the academy there. Early on he displayed an interest in art, which was encouraged by the artists ...

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Clements, Gabrielle DeVaux (11 September 1858–23 March 1948), oil and mural painter and etcher, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the daughter of Richard Clements, a physician, and Gabrielle DeVaux. When she was seventeen, Clements studied lithography with Charles Page, an ornamental designer and printmaker, at the Philadelphia School of Design for Women. She made scientific drawings and lithographs for Cornell University, from which she received a B.S. in 1880. Although her coursework specialized in science, she wrote her senior thesis on “A Study of Two German Masters in Medieval Art, Dürer and Holbein.” Clements studied with painter ...

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Doolittle, Amos (18 May 1754–31 January 1832), engraver, was born in Cheshire, Connecticut, the son of Ambrose Doolittle and Martha Munson (occupations unknown). Doolittle apprenticed under Eliakim Hitchcock, a silversmith, but he may have taught himself to engrave copper plates. By 1774, he was living in New Haven, where he remained until his death. He appears to have prospered, owning a house and shop on College Street in which he rented out a large room to individuals and organizations, including the Masons, who met there from 1801 to 1826. Doolittle was himself a dedicated Mason from 1792 until his death....

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Doughty, Thomas (19 July 1793–22 July 1856), lithographer and landscape painter, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of James Young Doughty, a ship carpenter, and Mary Young. He was apprenticed to a leather merchant when he was sixteen and continued in this occupation for approximately ten years. Doughty apparently taught himself how to paint, and around 1816 he painted his first landscapes. It was also at this time that he listed his occupation as “painter” in the Philadelphia register, among the first American artists to do so. He was an avid hunter and fisherman whose intense love of nature inspired him to capture the serenity and joy he experienced in the wooded hills and along the quiet streams of the Northeast....

Image

Asher Brown Durand. Daguerreotype from the studio of Mathew B. Brady. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-109970).

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Durand, Asher Brown (21 August 1796–17 September 1886), engraver and painter, was born in Jefferson Village (now Maplewood), New Jersey, the son of John Durand, a watchmaker and silversmith, and Rachel Meyer Post. Following five or six years of study at the village public school and summers spent working in his father’s shop, where he learned engraving, from 1812 to 1817 he was apprenticed to the New Jersey engraver Peter Maverick. In 1817 he formed a partnership with Maverick and opened a branch of the firm in New York. Around 1818 Durand began informal study and drawing from plaster casts at the American Academy of Fine Arts in New York, where his work came to the attention of the academy’s president, ...

Article

Eichenberg, Fritz (24 October 1901–30 November 1990), illustrator and woodcut artist, was born in Cologne, Germany, the son of Siegfried Eichenberg, a merchant, and Ida Marcus, a merchant after her husband's death in 1915. At about the age of sixteen, after eleven years of traditional Gymnasium schooling that he described as “brutal in demanding unconditional obedience” ( ...

Article

Getchell, Edith Loring Peirce (25 January 1855–18 September 1940), painter and etcher, was born in Bristol, Pennsylvania, the daughter of Unitarians Joseph S. Peirce, a well-to-do candle manufacturer and politician, and Ann Moore. Peirce’s parents sent her in 1874 to study art with Peter Moran at the Philadelphia School of Design for Women, where she specialized in textile design. Returning to Bristol after three years at the school, Peirce designed textiles for Livingston Mills....

Article

Gifford, Robert Swain (23 December 1840–15 January 1905), artist, was born on Nonamesset Island near Wood’s Hole, Massachusetts, the son of William Tillinghast Gifford, a boatman, and Annie Eldridge. He was named for Robert Swain, the late invalid son of William W. Swain, a prosperous New Bedford merchant who employed Gifford’s father. When he was two, Gifford’s family moved to Fairhaven, Massachusetts, where he spent his youth attending the local school and working around the wharves. As the son of an impecunious waterman, Gifford would have had an education limited to the grammar school of Fairhaven had it not been for the kindly encouragement of Mrs. Swain, who saw to it that he studied French, literature, and music and acquired the manners and bearing of a gentleman....

Article

Greatorex, Eliza Pratt (25 December 1819–09 February 1897), landscape painter and etcher, was born in Manor Hamilton, Ireland, the daughter of the Reverend James Calcott Pratt, a follower of John Wesley. Her mother’s name is unknown. As girls Eliza and her sister Matilda were allowed to study painting, literature, and music. For a time both girls sought literary careers. In 1840 the family moved to New York City, where Eliza Pratt began to concentrate on painting. In 1849 she married Henry Wellington Greatorex, an English emigrant and well-known organist; they had two children. The family traveled widely for Henry’s frequent concert and teaching engagements, but they made their home in Hartford, Connecticut. On returning from a visit to England, Henry Greatorex died unexpectedly in Charleston, South Carolina, on 10 September 1858....

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Gropper, William (03 December 1897–07 January 1977), painter and caricaturist, was born in New York City, the son of Harry Gropper and Jenny Nidel, both workers in garment-trade sweatshops in New York’s Lower East Side. When he completed grammar school, he won a scholarship to the National Academy of Design but stayed only a few months. Their requirement for drawing from casts disappointed Gropper, already experienced in drawing from life in classes at the Ferrer School with ...

Article

Hale, Ellen Day (11 February 1855–11 February 1940), oil and mural painter and etcher, was born in Worcester, Massachusetts, the daughter of Edward Everett Hale, an author, orator, and Unitarian clergyman, and Emily Baldwin Perkins. Hale was the eldest child and only daughter in her family of seven brothers, of whom only five lived to adulthood. She assumed the surrogate mother duties of an eldest daughter, extending her caretaking to serving as her father’s hostess in Washington, D.C., from 1904, when he was appointed chaplain to the U.S. Senate, to his death in 1909. From an early age she determinedly pursued a career in art, working and traveling as much as her commitment to family responsibilities would allow. Hale’s mother encouraged Ellen and her brothers, who included the artist ...