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 Vincent Colyer  (1825 - 1888)

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Lived/Active: Connecticut/California/New York      Known for: landscape and portrait painting, exploration sketches

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Ad Code: 3
Vincent Colyer
from Auction House Records.
San Jose, New Mexico
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Landscape painter Vincent Colyer, born in Bloomingdale, New York, earned a reputation as a serious artist as well as skilled government official.  He is noted for the images he created of the American West, especially Indian subjects, landscapes, and botanical specimens.  In the Eastern United States, he became a noted crayon-portrait artist.

Colyer studied at the National Academy of Design in New York and with painter John Rubens Smith for four years.  From 1848 to 1860, he earned a living doing crayon portraits.  During the Civil War, he served in the medical corps, and in 1866, settled in Darien, Connecticut near his good friend, painter John Kensett (1816-1872).  Shortly thereafter, Colyer served as secretary to the board of United States Indian commissioners in the late 1860s and early 70s, first in the Southwest, and then in Alaska.

He was a visitor to the Territory of Alaska in 1869, and produced solid artistic work while engaged in official activities promoting the establishment of schools for the Indian tribes of the Territory.  While there he visited Wrangell and Sitka, painting views of both, and it is thought that he also went to Kodiak.  He made paintings of the Native people and the landscapes he encountered, including Aleutian Islands, North Pacific Ocean, Alaska Territory, (oil on canvas, ca. 1880, Anchorage Museum of Art).  He is also known to have painted the regions of Unalaska and Belcovsky.

En route through the Northwest to Alaska, Colyer traveled the Columbia River and stayed at Fort Walla Walla in Washington. Later he developed his sketches from that trip into oil paintings that were shown in New York City during the following decade.

He exhibited large paintings from his sketches of the West at the National Academy and the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition.

Edan Hughes, Artists in California, 1786-1940
Robert Taft, Artists and Illustrators-Old West
Woodward E. Kesler, Painting in the North

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in Bloomingdale, NY on Sept. 30, 1825, Vincent Colyer worked in a drugstore until 1844 when he took up art.  He then studied at the National Academy of Design, and with John R. Smith for four years.  During the 1850s his crayon portraits were in demand in New York City.

As a member of the Christian Commission, he served as a medical corpsman during the Civil War.  Both artist and U.S. Indian Commissioner, Colyer traveled widely in the West during the late 1860s and early 1870s.

He died in Darien, CT on July 12, 1888.

Member: American National Academy (1849).

Exhibitions:  Philadelphia Centennial Expo, 1876.

Houston Museum; Maryland Historical Society; Bancroft Library, UC Berkeley (wc of Santa Barbara, 1871).
Edan Hughes, "Artists in California, 1786-1940"
Artists of the American West (Samuels); Dictionnaire des Peintres, Sculpteurs, Dessinateurs, et Graveurs (Bénézit, E); Artists of the American West (Doris Dawdy); Dictionary of American Painters, Sculptors & Engravers (Fielding, Mantle); New York Historical Society's Dictionary of Artists in America (Groce, George C. and David H. Wallace); Artists and Illustrators of the Old West (Robert Taft).
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.

Biography from Questroyal Fine Art, LLC:
Born in New York, Vincent Colyer spent the majority of his life traveling the United States. In the 1840s, Colyer decided to dedicate his life to art and studied at the National Academy of Design under John R. Smith. The artist served in the medical corps during the United States Civil War, and was later appointed a U.S. Indian Commissioner. From the late 1860s to early 1870s, Colyer traveled extensively to the West and Alaska, sketching the vast landscape.

After returning to Connecticut ca. 1872, Colyer’s plentiful sketches served as studies for his future works, larger-scale paintings of Northwestern and Alaskan landscapes. A close friend of John Frederick Kensett, the two painters shared land on Contentment Island, off the coast of Connecticut. It was here that Kensett, in an attempt to save Colyer’s drowning wife, brought upon his own death; he passed one month later, due to complications from the incident.

During his lifetime, Colyer exhibited at the National Academy of Design, the Brooklyn Academy of Art, the American Art Union, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, and in the Pennsylvania Centennial exhibition. His works are in the permanent collections of the Maryland Historical Society, the Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley, and the Gilcrease Museum.

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Notable Alaska

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