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 George de Forest Brush  (1855 - 1941)

About: George de Forest Brush
 

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Lived/Active: New Hampshire/New York/Tennessee      Known for: Indian figure, portrait and genre painting, teaching

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George de Forest Brush
from Auction House Records.
The Indian and the Lily
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Raised in Danbury, Connecticut, George de Forest Brush became a figure and portrait painter, especially of Plains Indian subjects whose tribal customs and traditions he depicted in a romantic style. Unlike his peers, Frederic Remington and Charles Russell, he was not interested in dramatic scenes but painted daily life, which presented a new aspect of these people to eastern viewers. He also painted "modern madonnas" or straightforward portraits of women, often with his wife, Mittie, and his children as the models.

He enrolled at age 16 for three years, 1871 to 1874, at the National Academy of Design with Lemuel Wilmarth. In 1873, thanks to an anonymous benefactor, he enrolled, along with Abbott Thayer, at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris as a pupil of Jean-Leon Gerome, whose academic style, solidly constructed figures, and highly finished technique had continuing influence on Brush. Gerome had also encouraged his students to explore exotic subject matter, advice Brush certainly followed in his travels West depicting the Indians.

Returning to the United States in 1880, Brush traveled with his brother Alfred to Wyoming where he lived with the Shoshone and Arapahoe tribes and then to Montana for several years where he painted the Crow Indians. He contributed views of Indian life to "Harper's" and "Century" magazines, and his images were of "the world of the Indian before the white man came, an idealized Indian that never was." (Samuels 72).

Returning to the East, he took many Indian artifacts that he used in his New York studio to produce salon paintings of idealized depictions of Indian life. These paintings had limited appeal, so he supported his family by teaching at the Art Students League. Then he began mother and child paintings which brought him financial success. He and his family traveled in Europe, including Italy where he learned to paint his "American madonnas", which ultimately brought him success. He and his wife then purchased a farm in Cornish, New Hampshire, where he had first visited in 1887. Upon their first arrival, the couple lived in a tepee, which burned down when Augustus Saint-Gaudens and others partied in it when the Brushes were absent.

In 1898, Brush developed the idea of camouflage for warshps.

He died in Hanover, New Hampshire in 1941, having had several exhibitions in New York in the 1930s.

Source:
Alma Gilbert, "The Cornish Colony"
Peggy and Harold Samuels, "Encyclopedia of Artists of the American West"
Peter Falk, "Who Was Who in American Art"

Biography from Altermann Galleries and Auctioneers, II:
Born: Shelbyville, Tennessee 1855
Died: Hanover, New Hampshire 1941

“The poet of the Indian painters,” figure painter.

Brush attended the National Academy from 1871 to 1874, then along with Abbott Thayer, studied with Gerome in Paris until 1880. On his return he went West and into Canada, a contemporary of Remington and Russell. From 1882 to 1886 he lived in Crow, Sioux, and Mandan villages. He became a serious participant in the Indian crafts and traditions. The West was just changing: “In 1880, thousands of buffalo darkened the rolling plains. In the fall of 1883, there was hardly a buffalo remaining on the range” in Montana. Brush wrote, “Every one who goes far West sees Indians as dark-skinned tramps, their old people blind and dirty.” He painted “the world of the Indian before the white man came,” an idealized Indian that never was.

The paintings brought wide acclaim but did not sell. “Among the Indians of the northland, Brush may have found braves who would trop to gather water lilies on their way home from the hunt, but the manner would seem better suited for the portrayal of Greeks in their period of highest culture.” Brush went back to Europe in 1890 and “from the Florentine learned how to paint his American madonnas,” using his wife and children as subjects. These paintings had a ready market. Brush taught at the Art Students League, and developed the concept of camouflaging warships in an 1898 suggestion to the Navy. Like Inness or Thayer, he was regarded as the epitome of the art of the turn of the century, less exciting than Matisse just as a “lady” is less exciting than a “vitriol-throwing suffragette.”

Resource: SAMUELS’ Encyclopedia of ARTISTS of THE AMERICAN WEST,
Peggy and Harold Samuels, 1985, Castle Publishing

Biography from The Caldwell Gallery - I:
George DeForest Brush was born in 1855 and studied at the National Academy of Design from 1870-74. He traveled to Paris to finish his education at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in 1874-80. Brush painted largely in an academic manner due to the influence of his European training. When he returned to America, Brush traveled out West for five years, living with Native American Indians in their villages throughout Wyoming.

He produced romanticized, domestic views of this life for "Harper's" and "Century" magazine. However, these themes were not very popular with the public. Brush went to Florence in 1890 and focused on the Renaissance theme of mother and child that he is best known for. Every year from 1898-1917, he returned to visit Florence. Brush had two major exhibitions in NYC in the 1930s and taught at the Art Student League on and off for years. He later moved to New Hampshire but unfortunately a fire destroyed his studio in 1937, brining to an end Brush's artistic endeavors. He died in 1941.



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George Brush is also mentioned in these AskART essays:
Cornish Colony
Paris Pre 1900

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