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Audubon, John James (1785-1851), naturalist and artist  

Keir B. Sterling

Audubon, John James (26 April 1785–27 January 1851), naturalist and artist, was born Jean Rabin Fougère in Les Cayes, Santo Domingo, the son of Captain Jean Audubon, a French sea captain, planter, and slave dealer, and Jeanne Rabin (or Rabine), a young Frenchwoman employed as a chambermaid on the island. The traditional view, that Mlle Rabin was a Creole woman native to Santo Domingo, has been disproved. Audubon’s mother died before he was seven months old, and the child was cared for by another mistress of the father’s with whom he had several children. In 1791, fearing worsening conditions in Santo Domingo, Captain Audubon arranged for his son and a younger daughter by his mistress Catherine “Sanitte” Bouffard to be taken to France. There both were well cared for by Captain Audubon’s legal spouse, Anne Moynet Audubon, who had no children of her own. Both children were formally adopted by the couple in 1794, as was required if they were legally to inherit Captain Audubon’s name and property, and were baptized in 1800. At this time the boy received the name Jean-Jacques Fougère Audubon....


Bearden, Romare (1911-1988), artist  

Eleanor F. Wedge

Bearden, Romare (02 September 1911–11 March 1988), artist, was born Romare Howard Bearden in Charlotte, North Carolina, the son of R. Howard Bearden, a grocer, and Bessye Johnson. When Bearden was about four years old the family moved to New York, settling in Harlem, where he went to public school and his parents developed a wide network of acquaintances among the Harlem jazz musicians and intellectuals of the day. His father later became an inspector for the New York Board of Health; his mother, a civic leader. Bearden finished high school in Pittsburgh, however, having lived there for a time with his grandmother. In 1932, after two years at Boston University, he transferred to New York University, where he did illustrations for the undergraduate humor magazine and earned a B.S. degree in mathematics in 1935. For the next two years he contributed political cartoons to the ...


Benton, Thomas Hart (1889-1975), painter  

Henry Adams

Benton, Thomas Hart (15 April 1889–09 January 1975), painter, was born in Neosho, Missouri, the son of Maecenas Eason Benton, a politician, and Elizabeth Wise. Benton grew up in an environment of politics and conflict. He was named for his great-uncle Thomas Hart Benton...


Bierstadt, Albert (1830-1902), artist  

Phillip Drennon Thomas

Bierstadt, Albert (07 January 1830–18 February 1902), artist, was born in Solingen, Germany, the son of Henry Bierstadt, a cooper, and Christina M. Tillmans. In 1832 his family emigrated to New Bedford, Massachusetts, where his father made barrels for the whaling trade. Showing no particular aptitude for art in his early years, Albert received a traditional New England education in the local grammar schools. His formal education did not extend beyond this level. By 1853 he was determined to become an artist and sailed that year for Düsseldorf, Germany, to study art. His limited means prevented him from formally enrolling in the academy at Düsseldorf, one of the most important centers for artistic study in the German states. Through friendships with ...


Bluemner, Oscar Julius (1867-1938), painter  

Jeffrey R. Hayes

Bluemner, Oscar Julius (21 June 1867–12 January 1938), painter, was born in Prenzlau, Germany (Prussia), the son of Hermann Bluemner, a master builder. His mother’s name is unknown. After passing his Abitur examination in Elberfeld, he entered the Königliche Technische Hochschule in Berlin (Charlottenburg), where he studied architecture under Hermann Ende and Fritz Wolff between 1887 and 1892. Before graduating he designed public buildings in Glewitz and Halle am Saale and was awarded a Royal Academy medal for the painting of an architectural subject....


Cadmus, Paul (1904-1999), artist  

Ann T. Keene

Cadmus, Paul (17 December 1904–12 December 1999), artist, was born in New York City, the son of Egbert Cadmus and Maria Latasa Cadmus, artists. His father was a lithographer and painter of watercolors who had studied with Robert Henri; his mother illustrated children's books. Egbert Cadmus was of Protestant Dutch ancestry and a self-proclaimed atheist; his wife, of Spanish descent, was an observant Roman Catholic. The resulting tension in the household led their son to separate himself from all religious doctrines. But he did acquire from them a precocious ability to draw the human figure. He later recalled that by the time he was ten years old he knew he wanted to become a painter. Cadmus attended local public schools until 1919, when he dropped out of Townsend Harris High School and enrolled in drawing and printmaking classes at the National Academy of Design in Manhattan. After seven years of study in various media at the academy he enrolled for further training at the Art Students League, also in Manhattan....


Chase, William Merritt (1849-1916), artist and teacher  

Keith L. Bryant

Chase, William Merritt (01 November 1849–25 October 1916), artist and teacher, was born in Nineveh, Indiana, the son of David Hester Chase, a merchant, and Sarah Swaim. At age twelve Chase moved with his family to Indianapolis, where he attended public schools and worked in his father’s shoe store. Chase showed little interest in commerce but demonstrated considerable artistic talent. Around 1866 he began to study with local painters Barton S. Hays and Jacob Cox. Bored with the shoe store and Indianapolis, Chase joined the U.S. Navy as an apprentice in 1867. He quickly realized that he had made a mistake and successfully sought a discharge within a few months. Cox and Hays then convinced David Chase to send his son to New York City to study at the National Academy of Design....


Christy, Howard Chandler (1873-1952), artist  

Robert L. Gale

Christy, Howard Chandler (10 January 1873–03 March 1952), artist, was born in Morgan County, Ohio, the son of Francis Marion Christy and Mary Chandler, farmers. Christy revealed a precocious ability to draw. At age ten he earned $10 by painting a black and white bull against a blue sky for a local butcher’s shop sign. At thirteen he sketched the log schoolhouse in Orange, Ohio, where ...


Cole, Thomas (1801-1848), landscape painter  

Alan Wallach

Cole, Thomas (01 February 1801–11 February 1848), landscape painter, was born in Bolton-le-Moor, Lancashire, England, the son of James Cole, a muslin manufacturer, and Mary (maiden name unknown). His parents encouraged his artistic tendencies but were incapable of providing him with an artistic education. For a short time he attended a boarding school in Chester and at about age fourteen went to work as an engraver at a calico printworks in Chorley. James Cole’s business failed in the depression following the end of the Napoleonic wars, and in 1818 the Cole family immigrated to the United States. Cole spent his first year in the New World working as an engraver in Philadelphia. Joining his family in Steubenville, Ohio, he began a career as an itinerant portraitist and artistic jack-of-all-trades. In 1823 he moved back to Philadelphia, where he studied the paintings on view at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, including landscapes by ...


Cummings, E. E. (1894-1962), poet and painter  

Richard S. Kennedy

Cummings, E. E. (14 October 1894–03 September 1962), poet and painter, was born Edward Estlin Cummings in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the son of Edward Cummings, a Unitarian minister of the South Congregational Church in Boston, and Rebecca Haswell Clarke. Cummings’s mother encouraged him from an early age to write verse and to keep a journal. He was educated at the Cambridge Latin School and at Harvard College, where in 1915 he received his A.B., graduating magna cum laude in Greek and English; he received his A.M. from Harvard in 1916. In his last year of college, he became intensely interested in the new movements in the arts through his association with ...


Curry, John Steuart (1897-1946), artist  

David Detmer

Curry, John Steuart (14 November 1897–29 August 1946), artist, was born near Dunavant, Kansas, the son of Smith Curry and Margaret Steuart, farmers. He took an early interest in drawing and began to take art lessons in 1909. Resolving to pursue a career as an Curry left home in 1916 for three years of art study, beginning at the Kansas City Art Institute and continuing at the Art Institute of Chicago and at Geneva College in Pennsylvania. In 1919 he moved to Leonia, New Jersey, to receive instruction in illustration from artist ...


de Kooning, Willem (1904-1997), artist  

Tracy Schpero Fitzpatrick

de Kooning, Willem (24 April 1904–19 March 1997), artist, was born in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, the son of Leendert de Kooning, a beverage distributer, and Cornelia Nobel de Kooning, a café proprietor. After his parents divorced in 1907, Willem lived first with his father and then with his older sister and his mother, after she contested the custody arrangements. Willem left grammar school in 1916 and apprenticed with the commercial art and decorating firm of Jan and Jaap Gidding. He also enrolled in evening classes at the Rotterdam Academy of Fine Arts and Techniques, which he attended until 1924. In 1920 he left Gidding to work with Bernard Romein, the art director of a large Rotterdam department store. He traveled to Brussels and Antwerp in 1924, supporting himself through commercial art jobs....


Durand, Asher Brown (1796-1886), engraver and painter  

Franklin Kelly

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, ...


Eilshemius, Louis Michel (1864-1941), painter  

Catherine McNickle Chastain

Eilshemius, Louis Michel (04 February 1864–29 December 1941), painter, was born near Newark, New Jersey, the son of Henry G. Eilshemius, a wealthy New York City importer, and Cécilie Elise Robert. Educated at elite private schools in the United States and in Europe, he attended Cornell University from 1882 to 1884 but left to study art at the Art Students League in New York City. He also studied privately with landscapist Robert C. Minor. In the fall of 1886 he enrolled at the Académie Julian in Paris, where he studied painting until the spring of 1887. During the summer of 1887 he finished his formal art training in Antwerp with private lessons from landscapist Joseph van Luppen. Except for several trips abroad and within the United States between 1889 and 1907, Eilshemius lived for the remainder of his life with his older brother Henry in a brownstone at 118 East Fifty-seventh Street in New York City. He never married....


Flagg, James Montgomery (1877-1960), artist and author  

Robert L. Gale

Flagg, James Montgomery (18 June 1877–27 May 1960), artist and author, was born in Pelham Manor, New York, the son of Elisha Flagg, a businessman, and Anna Elida Coburn, a socialite. Flagg attended public schools in Brooklyn and New York City, then a private institution called Dr. Chapin’s School (1889–1891), and finally the Horace Mann School in New York (1891–1893). When he was twelve, he sold a drawing to the children’s magazine ...


Fulton, Robert (1765-1815), artist, engineer, and entrepreneur  

C. M. Harris

Fulton, Robert (14 November 1765–23 February 1815), artist, engineer, and entrepreneur, was born on a farm in Little Britain (later Fulton) Township, south of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, the son of Robert Fulton, a Scotch-Irish tailor and tradesman, and Mary Smith. Fulton’s father had left the prosperous market town of Lancaster to establish his family on the land, but like so many others with the same goal, he failed. The farm and the dwelling were sold at sheriff’s sale in 1772, and he took his family back to Lancaster. He died two years later....


Gibran, Kahlil (1883-1931), poet and painter  

Patricia Jobe Pierce

Gibran, Kahlil (06 January 1883–10 April 1931), poet and painter, was born Gibran Khalil Gibran in Besharri, Lebanon, the son of Khalil Gibran, a gambler and olive grove owner, and Kamila Rahme, a peddler. The boy was named by prefacing his father’s name Khalil with the surname of his paternal grandfather, thus Gibran Khalil Gibran. Although in later years Gibran fabricated stories of his family’s origins and their years in Besharri, factual accounts (particularly Gibran and Gibran, ...


Gwathmey, Robert (1903-1988), artist and activist  

Michael Kammen

Gwathmey, Robert (03 January 1903–21 September 1988), artist and activist, was born near Richmond, Virginia, an eighth-generation native of Welsh descent, to Robert Gwathmey, a railroad engineer, and Eva Harrison Gwathmey. Following brief stints at North Carolina State College (1922–1923) and Maryland Institute of Design (1925–1926) and at sea on a commercial freighter, he attended the prestigious Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA, 1926–1930), where he was awarded several prize fellowships and met his future wife, also an aspiring artist, Rosalie Hook of Charlotte, North Carolina. They married in 1935 and had one son, Charles Gwathmey, who became one of the most prominent architects of his generation. When Charles was born, Rosalie Gwathmey took up photography, acquired professional skills, and later earned public recognition for her work. Beginning in the 1940s Robert Gwathmey often asked Rosalie to photograph rural scenes in their native South and used those images as the basis for some of his most striking paintings. Despite that collaboration Gwathmey was typical of his generation in regarding photography as an inferior art form....


Hartley, Marsden (1877-1943), artist, essayist, and poet  

Gail Levin

Hartley, Marsden (04 January 1877–02 September 1943), artist, essayist, and poet, was born Edmund Hartley in Lewiston, Maine, the son of Thomas Hartley, a spinner in a cotton mill, and Eliza Jane Horbury. His childhood was marred by the death of his mother in 1885, at which time her eight children were separated. Hartley remained with his father and an older married sister, Elizabeth, in Auburn, Maine, until 1889, when his father remarried Martha Marsden, an Englishwoman, and moved with her to Cleveland, Ohio. (In 1908 Hartley dropped his first name and decided to call himself Marsden, his stepmother’s maiden name, which he had adopted in 1906.) Left behind with Elizabeth, Hartley dropped out of school at fifteen and worked in a shoe factory. In 1893 he moved to Cleveland, where he joined his family and took a job as an office boy in a marble quarry....


Hassam, Childe (1859-1935), painter, illustrator, and graphic artist  

Marcia B. Dinneen

Hassam, Childe (17 October 1859–27 August 1935), painter, illustrator, and graphic artist, was born Frederick Childe Hassam in Dorchester, Massachusetts, the son of Frederick Fitch Hassam, an antiques dealer and cutlery merchant, and Rose Delia Hawthorne. The family name was a derivation of the original Puritan name Horsham....