Thursday, June 3, 2010

What Lies Below the Surface? Part III

By Doug Kendall, Curator of Collections

When great landscape painters of 19th-century America are discussed, one will certainly hear the names of Thomas Cole and Asher Durand, both of whom are represented in the collections of the Fenimore Art Museum. Frederic Church, George Inness, Thomas Doughty and Albert Bierstadt would probably make the list as well.

These painters not only created a popular vision of the American landscape, they also inspired countless Americans to take up pencil and sketchbook, palette and canvas, and record the scenery of their own regions. Though neither famous nor in most cases professional, many of these artists did possess some artistic skill and talent.

In western New York, William Martin Beauchamp (1830-1925) and John Calvin Perry (1837-1894) were two such artists. Beauchamp’s father was an English printer who emigrated to Skaneateles and ran local newspapers and a printing office. William sketched landscapes of the Skaneateles Lake area from an early age; he became an Episcopal priest and an amateur archaeologist and continued creating sketches and watercolors throughout his life as an avocation.

Glenhaven, Head of Skaneateles Lake, 1851. By William Martin Beauchamp. Oil on canvas.
Bequest of Nina Fletcher Little, N0183.1993.

John Calvin Perry lived his entire life in the hamlet of Delphi Falls, 30 miles or so from Skaneateles. He painted portraits, but also farmed to support his family. At times he taught art at the Cazenovia Seminary and in other nearby communities. He painted landscapes for his own pleasure and many of these remained with his descendants.

Wheat Harvest, date unknown. By John Calvin Perry. Oil on canvas.
Gift of Clayton Smith, N0121.1992. Photo: Lesley Poling.

Artists like Beauchamp and Perry could not earn their living as artists, but they are representative of an artistic culture that developed in 19th-century New York. Their works, which never became iconic representations of the American landscape as did those of Cole and Church, nevertheless have great historical value in documenting the common landscape of upstate New York.

No comments:

Blog Widget by LinkWithin