The Ellerslie Log

The 407-ton packet Ellerslie left New Orleans on December 30, 1848, on a royage that now would be forgotten save for the discovery of a series of watercolor sketches done by one of the passengers, James Guy Erans, a minister and maritime artist bound for the ship’s home port of Baltimore. Read more »

The Other Frederick Church

By the late 1850’s Frederick Church was the most popular artist in America. “He alone,” wrote a contemporary, “with the confidence of success, exhibits his single works as they are completed.” Holding opera glasses, visitors would come to study a solitary canvas —almost always a landscape of enormous complexity, a huge, classical composition crowded with photographic detail. But Church’s admirers never saw the studies he also produced—hasty notations, tossed off in a matter of minutes, but filled with sunlight and greenery and tumbling clouds.Read more »

An Artist-sportsman’s Portfolio

A. B. Frost faithfully recorded the woodland pursuits of himself and his affluent friends

Arthur Burdett Frost, who at the turn of the century was perhaps the best-known and most popular illustrator in America, sketched and painted his way from relatively humble beginnings to hobnobbing with the leisure class. A significant element in this ascension was his lifelong fascination with sports of field and stream: he often hunted and fished with gentlemen of affluence, and depicted their passionate pursuits on paper and canvas with such accuracy and verve that they came to consider him the sportsman-artist par excellence.Read more »

The American Pantheon, According To Coyle

Carlos Cortez Coyle did not know much about art, at least not in the formal sense. But he knew whom he liked, and he painted his heroines and heroes with naive enthusiasm. Coyle was born in Kentucky in 1871 and did not begin painting seriously until he was fifty-nine, after a knockabout career as a shipbuilder and lumberman.Read more »

The Red Hot Republican

A good party is better than the best man that ever lived.” So said “Czar’ Thomas B. Reed, the formidable late-nineteenth-century Speaker of the House of Representatives. He was talking about his own Republican party, of course, and “Elephant Joe” Josephs, the gloriously partisan artist whose proud self-portraits appear here, would have agreed enthusiastically. For no more impassioned Republican ever drew breath than this one-man GOP whirlwind from Buffalo, New York.Read more »

Astley David Montague Cooper And The Matter Of Mrs. Stanford’s Jewels

When she looked back on the dark episode later, Mrs. Leland Stanford, of the California railroad empire Stanfords, San Francisco and Palo Alto, must have regretted many times the day she let That Man into her house. Read more »

Mole’s Other Masterpieces

The question of how many angels can dance on the point of a pin stimulated debate among medieval scholars. Absurd, we say. But before we chortle, we might recall that a latter-day photographer once spent his time figuring how many men would be required to form a giant profile of Uncle Sam or a really big Liberty Bell. Read more »

Who Was This Man-and Why Did He Paint Such Terrible Things About Us?

The man was Diego Rivera, seen from the rear on his scaffold in an uncharacteristically modest self-portrait at left, and what he was doing in America was expressing his gargantuan contempt for capitalism and its precepts.Read more »

The Gossipy Art Of Louis Larsen

When the Norwegian artist Lauritz Larsen Mossige emigrated to America in the early 1880’s, he settled in Deckertown—now Sussex—New Jersey, and changed his name to Louis Larsen. The Americanization process did not stop there, and Larsen seems to have made himself a scholar of all the small-town scandals that enlivened life in Deckertown. Unlike virtually all other such primitive paintings, the two on these pages have come down to us rich with gossip about the people in them.Read more »

Gilbert Stuart The Man Who Painted Washington

The face is familiar. Every American has scanned it a thousand times; it passes from hand to hand in millions of ordinary business transactions every day of the year. It is Gilbert Stuart’s image of George Washington, and it adorns, of course, the United States dollar bill. Yet not one American in a hundred could tell you anything of the artist whose perception of the Father of His Country would eventually become the most readily recognized portrait ever made of any famous person.Read more »