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 Karl J. Anderson  (1874 - 1956)

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Lived/Active: Connecticut/Ohio      Known for: genre, landscape, figure and interior painting, teaching

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Ad Code: 3
Karl J Anderson
from Auction House Records.
The Naturalist, 1912
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in Morning Sun, Ohio, near Oxford, Karl Anderson became a magazine illustrator and noted impressionist painter of genre, mythology, symbolism, and still life, much influenced by his exposure in Europe to painters in that style.

He was the son of a harness maker and saddler and the brother of famous playright, Sherwood Anderson.  He first took art lessons from a local house painter in Clyde, Ohio, where the family moved in 1884.  Seven years later he went to Cleveland where he worked for a photographer, doing retouching, and also took night classes in crayon portraiture.

Shortly after, he enrolled at the Art Institute of Chicago with John Vanderpoel and James Earle Fraser.  He worked as an illustrator to pay his way at the Institute, which was a result of becoming friends with fellow student J.C. Leyendecker, whose position Anderson assumed in 1896 at J.C. Mantz and Company.  Two years later, he was in New York where he worked for the Sunday Morning Telegram.  In 1899, he was back in Ohio as resident artist in Springfield for Women's Home Companion.

In 1900 in Paris, France, he enrolled at the Academies Julian as a student of Alphonse Mucha, and also studied at the Academie Colarossi.   The following year he was in Egmond, Holland where he took plein-air painting classes with from George Hitchcock, the American expatriate, whose work captured the changing moods of Dutch sunlight.  This style became a permanent influence on Anderson.

Anderson returned to New York and earned money from commercial illustration including commissions from Scribner's, Collier's Weekly, Saturday Evening Post and Good Housekeeping.  Between 1909 and 1912, he traveled back to Europe, which included in 1911, a stay at Giverny with Frederick Frieseke, his old friend from Chicago Art Institute days.  Frieseke persuaded Anderson to stay at the colony for a period of time to study Monet's impressionist style, and Anderson did so during the summer of 1909.

Settling in Westport, Connecticut in 1912, but staying in close touch with the New York art scene, he continued as an illustrator for popular women's magazines, but thanks to the patronage of Charles Dawes, prominent Illinois businessman and Vice-President of the United States from 1925 to 1929, Anderson was able to focus increasingly on his fine-art painting.  He exhibited at the National Academy of Design where in 1917, he received the Benjamin Altman Prize.

In New York, he was an elected member of the Salmagundi Club, the National Academy of Design and Grand Central Galleries.  In Connecticut, he taught art classes and received distinction for his painting that led to his title as the "Dean of Westport Painters". 

Mary Lublin, "Karl Anderson", Painting and Sculpture in the Collection of The National Academy of Design, David Dearinger, editor. 

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
A well-known figure and portrait painter, Karl Anderson was born to a family that wandered from one small town to another in Ohio.  He was the son of a Southerner of Scotch-Irish parentage and a mother of Austrian descent.  He was also the brother of author Sherwood Anderson.  At the age of thirteen, Karl was apprenticed, and, like the early American painter Charles Willson Peale, learned the trade of harness making.

It was a village portrait artist who first taught Anderson the use of crayons. Gradually his skill grew and he became noted for his illustrations in black and white.  "All of our old town soon began to be proud of him," wrote his brother Sherwood years later.

After helping to support and educate the younger children of his family, Anderson eventually saved enough to travel to Europe. In 1910 he went to Madrid, where he studied and copied works by Velasquez.  He continued on to France where he painted The Idlers, which was purchased by the Art Institute of Chicago the following year.  Following his return to the United States, Charles G. Dawes, later a Vice-President of the United States, gave Anderson several commissions and helped him to decide to dedicate himself to painting.

Anderson is noted for his ability to capture likenesses, and for his draughtsmanship, likely developed during his years working in black and white illustration. His portraiture is typically dreamy genre images.  The artists own simple comment about his work is that "it is the fragrance of the invisible beauty of life that I should like to express."

(Information on the biography above is based on writings from the book, Contemporary American Portrait Painters, Illustrating and Describing the Work of Fifty Living Painters, by Cuthbert Lee.)

** If you discover credit omissions or have additional information to add, please let us know at

Karl Anderson is also mentioned in these AskART essays:
New York Armory Show of 1913
San Francisco Panama-Pacific Exhibition 1915

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