Tuesday, August 31, 2010


Portrait of American painter Jasper Francis Cropsey
By Edward L. Mooney
From en.wikipedia.org

Jasper Francis Cropsey (1823-1900) was born in Rossville, Staten Island, and early on displayed a keen interest in drawing and architecture. While still a young teen, Cropsey was awarded diplomas from the New York Mechanic's Institute and the American Institute of the City of New York for an elaborate architectural model. He then apprenticed with architect John Trench, who encouraged Cropsey to explore his talent in drawing and painting. Cropsey attended classes at the National Academy of Design, which constituted his formal art training. In 1843, Cropsey opened his own architectural firm in New York, the same year he first exhibited at the National Academy.
Cropsey was a strong admirer of the works of Thomas Cole, and by 1845 he devoted himself entirely to painting landscapes. He first traveled to Greenwood Lake, New Jersey in 1844 to paint the lake and the surrounding landscape. It soon became his favorite painting sight. Greenwood Lake was well known as an idyllic, picturesque area of green banks and placid water and it was there that he met and fell in love with Miss Maria Cooley, whom he married in 1847. Cropsey and his wife often returned to the area to visit her family and to paint the various areas surrounding the lake.

Mount Washington from Lake Sebago
Oil on canvas
Private collection
From New Hampshire Historical Society

InAugust 1849, Jasper F. Cropsey set out from New York City on a two-week sketching excursion to the White Mountains. Traversing Sebago Lake, about fifty miles from Mount Washington, Cropsey made two studies inscribed “Lake Sebago.” Later, in 1867, he used one of these studies, a distant view of Mount Washington (above), as the source for at least five canvases. The foregrounds, which differ in each of Cropsey’s three large paintings of the mountain, were products of the artist’s imagination. Working in his New York City studio, Cropsey turned his sketches into an autumnal view with the distant peak of Mount Washington covered by snow.
(New Hampshire Historical Society)

The Spirit of War, 1851
Picture taken at National Gallery of Art
Washington, D.C., USA
From Wikipedia

Catskill mountain house, 1855
From bergoiata.org

Cropsey traveled in Europe from 1847-1849, visiting England, France, Switzerland, and Italy. He was elected a full member of the Academy in 1851. Cropsey was a personal friend of Henry Tappan, the president of the University of Michigan from 1852 to 1863. At Tappan's invitation, he traveled to Ann Arbor in 1855 and produced two paintings, one of the Detroit Observatory, and a landscape of the campus. He went abroad again in 1855, and resided seven years in London, sending his pictures to the Royal Academy and to the International exhibition of 1862.
During his seven years in England, Cropsey kept company with leading figures in the British art world, including the director of the National Gallery, Sir Charles Eastlake, and author John Ruskin, leader of the Pre-Raphaelite movement, who influenced a generation of American and British painters through his advocacy of painting natural objects in their natural settings. While abroad, Cropsey began exhibiting the autumnal scenes that would become his hallmark. His monumental Autumn—On the Hudson River of 1860 (National Gallery of Art, Washington D. C.) was lauded by Queen Victoria and the London press, earning Cropsey trans-Atlantic repute as “America’s painter of autumn.”
(Hollis Taggart Galleries)

Starrucca viaduct Pennsylvania,1865
All images from bergoiata.org

Shortly after his return to America, Cropsey undertook American Autumn, Starruca Valley, Erie Railroad, a large painting celebrating a prosperous nation newly at peace. A chromolithograph after the painting was published by Thomas Sinclair of Philadelphia, which immediately put Cropsey’s work within easy reach of a mass market. He was commissioned by Milton Courtright to paint Valley of Wyoming (1865, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York), a painting measuring seven feet in width. The sale of these paintings gave him the money necessary to build Aladdin.
(Hollis Taggart Galleries)

Mounts Adam and Eve
Oil on canvas,1872
Courtesy of Reynolda House
Winston-Salem, North Carolina
Source the-athenaeum.org
From Wikipedia

Mounts Adam and Eve, Orange County, New York (above), presents such a scene as it recaptures the beauty of the famous hills and valleys Cropsey witnessed daily while at Warwick. Whether a token of the artist’s nostalgia for times past or a simple evocation of memorable scenery, Mounts Adam and Eve exemplifies the style and vibrant colors for which Cropsey and his fellow Hudson River School painters were known.
He combined a number of landscape elements to create a work that is at once picturesque and symbolic. The panoramic view he painted allows one to experience a stunning expanse of wilderness that includes a vast body of water, a mountain range, and billowing clouds that hover above the distant horizon line. Cropsey paid equal attention to each plane of space, giving the work multiple points of interest. The foreground, framed at right by repoussoir trees of brilliant autumnal colors, captures the eye and leads it to the marshlands of the middle ground. In the deep background are Mounts Adam and Eve, the namesakes of the painting.
The flawless sanctuary of Mounts Adam and Eve exudes a sense of the future, as the untrodden territory is presented as a landscape to be explored. As related by Albert Boime, the panoramic views employed by Hudson River School painters often referenced ideas of expansionism and Manifest Destiny. By allowing the viewers of their paintings to see, and therefore possess, undiscovered lands, these artists helped forward the idea that expansion was associated with American progress. Whether or not Cropsey intended his audience to interpret Mounts Adam and Eve in this manner, he created a work that expressed his personal reaction to the Edenic landscapes of the United States. Mounts Adam and Eve, Orange County, New York reveals the fortuitous result of “nature passed through the alembic of man.”
(Questroyal Fine Art, LLC.)
By the 1880s, Cropsey could no longer afford what had become an extravagant lifestyle. Aladdin was sold by his creditors, and in June 1885 the Cropseys settled in a modest home in the town of Hastings-on-Hudson, New York. Cropsey began painting the Hudson River and the Palisades, the rocky outcroppings on the Hudson’s west bank that are visible from Hastings. Although his landscape subject matter remained the same, his palette became increasingly high-keyed as a result of his contact with the English Pre-Raphaelites.
(Hollis Taggart Galleries)
Jasper Francis Cropsey moved his family to the picturesque village of Hastings-on-Hudson in 1885, leaving his home in Warwick, New York, which he had named “Aladdin,” and its numerous repairs far behind him. The artist began anew; purchasing a house he would affectionately call “Ever Rest.” The many paintings he created there serve as a testament to the fulfillment and pleasure he experienced while at Hastings-on-Hudson.
(Questroyal Fine Art, LLC.)
Cropsey's interest in architecture continued throughout his life and was a strong influence in his painting, most evident in his precise arrangement and outline of forms. But Cropsey was best known for his lavish use of color and, as a first-generation member from the Hudson River School, painted autumn landscapes that startled viewers with their boldness and brilliance. As an artist, he believed landscapes were the highest art form and that nature was a direct manifestation of God. He also felt a patriotic affiliation with nature and saw his paintings as depicting the rugged and unspoiled qualities of America.
Jasper Cropsey died in anonymity at Hastings-on-Hudson on June 22, 1900 but was rediscovered by galleries and collectors in the 1960s. Today, Cropsey's paintings are found in most major American museums, including the National Gallery of Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Timken Museum of Art in San Diego, the Honolulu Academy of Arts, the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, the Denver Art Museum, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Works by Cropsey also hang in the White House.
Cropsey and his wife Maria are buried in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Sleepy Hollow, New York.
Cropsey was a founding member of the American Water Color Society. His other memberships included the Century Club, the Lotos Club, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and the Artists Aid Society.
(Hollis Taggart Galleries)

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Ricky Johnson said...
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