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 Henry Lavender Adolphus Culmer  (1854 - 1914)

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Lived/Active: Utah/California      Known for: landscape, town views, botanical

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Ad Code: 3
Henry Lavender Adolphus Culmer
from Auction House Records.
THE FOREST BROOK
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
English by birth, Henry Culmer became known as a painter/scientist, illustrator and educator.  As his oil and watercolor painting evolved, so did his interest in botany and geology, especially rock formations.  These interests are reflected in his paintings of Monument Valley; the Natural Bridges published in National Geographic; the Grand Canyon; the coast of Monterey; and mountain ranges including the Tetons and Wasatch.  A painting called The Mystery of the Desert, is considered his masterpiece and was appraised at $25,000.00 at its completion in 1906.

Culmer is regarded as the first professional painter to penetrate the interior of the Alaska, which he did early in his career while commissioned by the Alaska Steamship Company.  From Cordova he traveled by rail to the Kennicott and Bonanza Mines, rich in copper, and also painted glaciers of the region.

Working primarily in Utah and basically self taught, Henry Culmer became one of the state's most popular painters, noted for his expansive, panoramic views as well as rock formations. "Geologists claimed they could identify the age of rocks in his pictures." (Samuels 117).  His popularity irritated some of his formally educated peers, especially ones such as John Clawson, John Hafen and James Harwood, who had studied in Paris at the prestigious Academy Julian.  When asked for names of his art instructors, Culmer responded "N.A. Ture".

Towards the end of his career, it is reported that Henry Culmer sold his paintings almost as fast as they were painted.  Major collectors were Colonel and Mrs. Edwin F. Holmes.  Although he referred to himself as painting to please the public, until four years before his death when he painted full time, he usually painted only in moments away from business, civic and other cultural pursuits.  From 1876 to 1882, he was a printer and publisher, and from 1883 to 1914, he owned his own business, Culmer Paint & Glass Company.

Henry Culmer arrived with his parents in Utah in 1868 as a young man, having been inspired to come to the seat of Mormonism by Mormon missionaries in England.  He worked as an accountant and newspaper editor.  In the 1870s, he attended the University of Deseret and studied with artists Reuben Kirkham and Alfred Lambourne.  During that same period, he met Thomas Moran, a frequent visitor to Utah, and so admired Moran that he painted with open acknowledgement in the same grandiose style.  Another artist with whom he became friends and who was influential was Julian Rix of California. Culmer visited California, where he especially loved to depict the cypress trees.

He died suddenly on February 10, 1914.  His work is in the Utah State Capitol Building and the Utah Historical Society.

Sources:
Vern Swanson, Utah Art
Peter Hastings Falk, Editor, Who Was Who in American Art
Peggy and Harold Samuels, The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Artists of the American West
Edan Hughes, Artists in California, 1786-1940

Biography from Anthony's Fine Art:
Henry Lavender Adolphus (known simply as "Harry") Culmer played a significant role in the promotion and early economic progress of the West as an entrepreneur, developer of natural resources, civic leader, descriptive writer and landscape painter. He liked to hike and explore unknown regions of the mountains and deserts.  Like Thomas Moran and other Rocky Mountain artists, he would not allow danger or discomfort to dissuade him in his quest for panoramic vistas and scenic splendors. Culmer was the first artist to see and depict the area of the natural bridges in southern Utah and also the interior of Alaska.

Born in Darrington, Kent, England, Culmer arrived in America in 1868 at the age of fourteen.  Having served an apprenticeship in a London print shop, Culmer further developed his skills in Utah: building, masonry, geology, bookkeeping, local government, and electrical lighting, as well as watercolor and oil painting.

In Salt Lake, by 1872, he attended the University of Deseret, possibly studying art there under Dan Weggeland.  With lessons from Alfred Lambourne and Reuben Kirkham, Culmer developed a great interest in landscape painting, and he and Lambourne eventually traveled a large part of the Wasatch Mountains together in search of grandiose subject matter.

Depicting landscape “to please the public”-- his own statement -- Harry Culmer became Utah’s most popular painter.   Large in view and depicting authentically felt enthusiasm for the grand expanses of the western land, Culmer’s artwork was often purchased immediately upon completion.  Several of his works were included as illustrations in National Geographic magazine.

Sources:
The Springville Museum of Art
Olpin, Seifrit, Swanson: Artists of Utah


Biography from Crocker Art Museum Store:
Painter. Born in Darington, Kent, England on March 25, 1854. Culmer immigrated to the U.S. with his family in 1868 and soon made the cross-country trek to Utah. Artistically inclined at an early age, he did not pursue an art career until late in life.

After graduating from the University of Utah, he chose a career in the newspaper business while studying painting in California with Julian Rix. As a young man Culmer met Thomas Moran while attending an exhibition of his works and from that time on Moran was his inspiration.

Working in oil and watercolor, he made painting forays into Utah, to the Tetons of Wyoming, and to California's Monterey Peninsula. He died in Salt Lake City on Feb. 10, 1914.

Collection: Univ. of Utah; Utah State Capitol. Sam; Ben; AAW; 100 Years of Utah Painting;

NY Times, 2-11-1914 (obit).

Nearly 20,000 biographies can be found in Artists in California 1786-1940 by Edan Hughes and is available for sale ($150). For a full book description and order information please click here.

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Henry Culmer is also mentioned in these AskART essays:
Notable Alaska

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