In 1865, after a highly successful career as an art teacher and wood engraver in New York City, Henry W. Herrick returned to his family’s home in Manchester, New Hampshire, to care for his aging mother. He was forty-one years old, portly, dignified, and soon—with his tall silk hat and gold-headed cane—he became something of an institution in the culture-poor cotton-mill community, a pillar of the First Congregational Church and a founder of the Manchester Art Association.
Although he was a familiar figure on its streets, as an artist Herrick turned his back for the most part on Manchester’s bustling industrial heart and took his sketchbook instead to the quiet residential avenues that fed from it and, farther beyond, to the winding dirt roads that led into the New Hampshire countryside.
Herrick was born in nearby Hopkinton in 1824. His father was a merchant and lumber dealer. His mother was an amateur painter who had studied with Jedediah Morse, the father of Samuel F. B. Morse, and it was she who recognized and encouraged young Henry’s artistic bent. At the age of eight he was painting flowers, birds, and other objects of nature under her tutelage.
While still in his teens Herrick began the study of wood engraving on his own; he also journeyed to Tennessee to work as a miniature portraitist. At the age of twenty he went to New York to study at the National Academy of Design, and within six months he was busily engaged in making book engravings for leading publishing houses, reproducing the works of noted painters and also doin? original engravings
In 1852 Herrick took a job as a teacher at the newly founded School of Design for Women, and four years later he became its principal. He was an early crusader for equal employment rights for women in the engraving profession. He left the school in 1858 to concentrate on his own work as an engraver, and during the Civil War he was a leading engraver for Harper’s Weekly .
Herrick continued his work as an engraver for New York and Boston publishing firms upon his return to Manchester after the war. Then, in 1875, he at last found the time to devote his skills to an art medium then in vogue in England and just gaining popularity among American painters: water color.
Typically, Herrick painted a subject by first drawing its outline in pencil or India ink; next he applied a clear water-color wash over various parts of it, and finally accented certain features in strong touches of color. No mere landscapist, he animated his paintings with people who were not passive onlookers but drove carriages, rowed boats, herded cows, strolled along, or dallied in conversation.
Despite his prominence as an engraver and the high quality of his water colors, Herrick, who died in 1906, would be largely forgotten today were it not for the Manchester Historic Association, which recently exhibited his works. We are indebted to its director, Virginia Gerken Plisko, and to David Brooke, director of the noted Currier Gallery of Art in Manchester, for information about Herrick’s career.