|This biography from the Archives of AskART:|
|Born in McConnelsville, Ohio, Frederick Dellenbaugh was an early
sketcher and mapmaker of the American West. He is perhaps best
known for his travels, writing, and artwork in the Southwest, as well
as his activities with the Cragsmoor, New York, art colony. He
was also one of the early artists into Alaska, going there in 1899 as a
commissioned landscape painter for the Harriman Expediditon, which
traveled up the coast of Alaska as far as Plover Bay in Siberia. |
attended public schools in Buffalo, New York, and studied art in New
York City, Munich, and in Paris. His primary method of study,
however, was painting in the field, particularly scenes and landscape
features that were difficult to photograph. He traveled widely,
including to Iceland, Norway, the West Indies, and South America.
His paintings sold well and were often published as illustrations for
natural history books. Using material from his private journals, he
wrote and illustrated several books about the western United States.
spent most of his boyhood in the Midwest, but eventually moved with his
parents to Buffalo, New York, where he graduated from high
school. From an early age he had an interest in art and
mapmaking, and at Buffalo High School, Dellenbaugh developed those
skills and talents that were to land him a seat on John Wesley Powell's
second exploratory voyage down the Colorado River, from 1871-1873.
locally for his quick hand with a sketching pencil, Dellenbaugh
combined his early inclinations as a naturalist with his artistic
talent to produce numerous drawings and paintings of upstate New
York. In conjunction with his avid interest in boating, these
artistic skills made him exactly suited to the expedition's need for a
painter to supplement the as yet unpredictable art of photography.
uncle, Almon Harris Thompson, introduced him to Major Powell who
quickly appointed him the expedition's artist and assistant
topographer. As he was only seventeen years old and a recent high
school graduate, the young adventurer did not feel that his parents
would agree to the dangerous trip. It is said he left at night on
a sleeper train for Chicago without telling his mother and father and
immediately set to work helping the group with the extensive
preparations for the long and dangerous voyage. As they left
Chicago for Green River, Wyoming, the jump-off point for the trip,
Dellenbaugh finally sent a telegram to his parents.
scenic and scientific drawings done on the river expedition were the
first to be done of the inner Grand Canyon. He viewed a river
much different than the one we see today, since the river's
damming. Stripped of vegetation, the river banks were dominated
by massive sand bars and bare rock, abutting a pulsing, muddy
river. Annual floods were a dominant presence, and each spring a
torrent of muddy snowmelt tumbled from the distant Rockies through the
canyons of the Colorado, scouring the banks and replenishing the
system's sediment supply.
did geological sketches
and maps, and, on the 16th of February, 1873, Dellenbaugh arrived by
horseback in Salt Lake City carrying the first Grand Canyon maps,
prepared by Powell's group. Dellenbaugh's Butte, near the Green
River, was named in his honor, as the youngest member of the
expedition. It was while on the expedition that he began his
life-long habit of keeping a daily journal of his travels. According to
Herbert E. Gregory, a geologist and authority on the region,
Dellenbaugh's exploration and depictions of the region represented an
important achievement. The exploration helped to "make known the
agricultural possibilities of the region at the head of the Paria and
the Escalante, the remarkable Aquarius and Kaiparowits Plateau, Water
Pocket Fold, and the Henry Mountains that formed the basis of the
classic works of Dutton and Gilbert." Also resulting from this
trip was the 'discovery' by the American public of Zion Canyon.
Dellenbaugh's series of paintings from his 1903 visit there were
exhibited a year later at the World's Fair in St. Louis,
Missouri. "The throngs of people who came to the fair could
hardly believe such a place as Zion Canyon was real." (Courtright, 34)
After spending 1873-1875
in New York, Dellenbaugh traveled for two years by himself exploring
the mesas, plateaus, and river valleys of southern Utah, northern
Arizona, and Nevada. Leaving Salt Lake in 1875, he rode south to
Kanab, then over to Zion's Canyon, following the Virgin River past St.
George and down into Arizona and California. In 1876 he made
another huge arc through the southwest meandering from Salt Lake, St.
George, the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, and Kanab, all the while
painting landscapes and Indian life and recording his experiences and
observations in his journals. Dellenbaugh began to take himself
more seriously as a painter at this point in his life.
he left the Southwest and journeyed to Munich, Germany, where he
studied art for a year at the Royal Academy. Paris was the next
stop on Dellenbaugh's artistic pilgrimage through Europe. He
sharpened his skills for several years at the Academie Julian under the
renowned French painter Auguste Carolus-Duran.
winter and spring of 1884-1885, Dellenbaugh made what was to be his
last trip to the wilds of the Southwest for many years. He lived
for six months with the Hopi Indians in the Four Corners area,
primarily sketching scenes from village life. The best collection
of Dellenbaugh's paintings is in the Museum of the American Indian in
New York. One example of his Southwestern artwork is the painting
Encampment on the Kaibab (oil, 1880), an image of a Paiute camp
on the Kaibab. This piece is a popular type of painting in
Victorian America, -Indians at home in the wilderness.
marked a turning point in Dellenbaugh's life. A charming man, he
returned from the Southwest to New York and married Harriet Rogers
Otis, an actress with David Belasco's theatre group. Settling
permanently in New York, Dellenbaugh spent the next fourteen years
doing research, writing, and lecturing on his favorite topics: Western
exploration, the American Indian, and the Colorado River Basin. He and
his wife usually wintered in New York City for the cultural life and
spent the summers on their family farm at Cragsmoor, New York, where
Dellenbaugh did much of his writing.
Both Dellenbaugh and his
wife were memorable figures in the history of the artist colony of
Cragsmore. Located in Ulster County, Cragsmoor had first come
into existence in the early 1870's when Edward Lamson Henry, William H.
Beard, J.G. Brown, Mrs. Eliza Greatorex and her two artist daughters
discovered the enchantments held by the plateau in the Shawangunk
Mountains. E.L. Henry was the first artist to build a summer home
there, and Mrs. Henry christened their house NA-PEE-NIA, a name from
the Lenape Indians. Word quickly spread to other artists.
and its wonders did not attract the traditional struggling artist with
little or no recognition. On the contrary, it was generally
artists of note who were already prosperous who sought to make their
homes among there. The sweeping vistas painted by the Hudson
River School were not as popular at the time as settings where people
were more predominant. Cragsmoor's artists specialized in this
latter type of subject, and their mountain getaway was a wonderful
source of both scenic beauty and local characters. Dellenbaugh's
paintings from Cragsmoor include images of "Grandpa" Coddington, a
local farmer. The painters of Cragsmoor also often used
themselves and each other as subjects as well.
A relation of
Mrs. Frederick Dellenbaugh, Eliza Hartshorn, was a primary figure in
the development of Cragsmoor. She was a wealthy lady from Newport
and during her first visit to the Henrys in 1886, immediately purchased
some land in the colony. Houses, barns, public buildings and roads were
constructed at her impetus, with Frederick Dellenbaugh as the
Although Dellenbaugh was a man of many interests
and accomplishments, he never had formal architectural training.
As a result, his houses were unique, innovative and eccentric.
Closets were placed in what would otherwise be wasted space, and he
seemed to care very little for the dimensions of stairs. Very few
of his staircases allowed for the passage of large furniture and some
were even rebuilt so they could be utilized for that purpose. A
Dellenbaugh house often had no two windows alike, for he enjoyed
salvaging windows from houses scheduled for demolition in the city and
working them into his designs on the mountain. One example of
such creative construction, 'The Barnacle', is a Dellenbaugh house.
also is said to have given Cragsmoor its name, despite certain stiff
competition. When the residents petitioned for a post office,
Dellenbaugh offered "Winahdin", but was rejected on the grounds that it
sounded too much like another upstate New York community,
Windham. He then created "Cragsmoor." Another resident suggested
the name "Baim-Wa-Wa" for the community. Dellenbaugh found out and is
said to have declared that he would leave rather than live in a
community with such a silly name. He then got together with the
local postmaster and wrote a letter to the Post Office Department.
Since the Post Office Department desired brevity, Dellenbaugh's name
Cragsmoor was accepted.
Around 1912 a library was inaugurated
for both summer and permanent residents and was housed at various
locations until 1923. In 1923, the trustees built a permanent
library designed by Dellenbaugh and constructed on land he donated. The
summer denizens also ensured their spiritual needs were met. In
1895 and 1896, Dellenbaugh designed and constructed the Episcopalian
Chapel of the Holy Name with money supplied by Eliza Hartshorn.
The Federated Church was built in 1903, a venture heavily funded by the
Innesses. Charles Curran served as deacon.
In 1899, at forty
six, the aging explorer began his last extended bout of extensive
traveling by accompanying E. H. Harriman's expedition exploring the
coast of Alaska as far as Plover Bay in Siberia. Harriman wanted
Dellenbaugh as the group's painter, and the artist made over sixty-five
paintings in oil of the expedition's wanderings, the wildlife, the
delicate plant life, and the awesome scenery of the sub-Arctic
Dellenbaugh was a seasoned traveler when he joined
the expedition, but his journals and letters show that he was truly
excited to be setting out on this trip. He wrote his fellow
artist, R. Swain Gifford, before the trip even started, saying that he
was delighted at the opportunity to work in Alaska. His pencil
drawings, oil sketches, and even photographs show his intense interest
in the shape and color of the landscape he saw. Even his most
formal paintings reveal evidence of his early experience in surveying
and mapping the land.
Aboard the Elder, the
expedition's ship, the two official artists were Dellenbaugh and R.
Swain Gifford. Both lived in New York City, but both had
considerable experience painting the North American wilderness.
The George W. Elder was not a fit studio for large-scale oil paintings,
and so both chose to do smaller oil and pencil studies. In their
work they used the softer colors, the greens, grays and browns, colors
so often seen along the Alaskan coast. Examples typical of
Dellenbaugh's works in Alaska are Log Houses, Kodiak Village, and Foggy Day, Cape Fox
(1899), both painted on board, and part of the collection of the
Anchorage Museum of History and Art. His unassuming but deft
landscapes serve as a visual travelogue of the Harriman expedition's
The expedition resulted in a two-volume publication, Harriman Alaska Expedition
(1901), now issued by the Smithsonian Institution, and include
reproductions of paintings done by Dellenbaugh, R. Swain Gifford, and
Louis A. Fuertes. He also recorded Muir Glacier, with John Muir's
isolated cabin surrounded by a vast, icy panorama. Dellenbaugh's Mt. Fairweather from the Northwest
(1899) is an impressionistic depiction of a seascape and mountain
range, the subdued color contrasting with the grand scale of the
scene. "I made a sketch of a mighty snowy mountain, sublimely
ethereal, which I took to be Mt. Fairweather... The day was bright,
clear and glorious, not a cloud to be seen, except a little one hanging
on the flank of Fairweather." (from the diary of Frederick Dellenbaugh,
an entry dated June 11, 1899).
In 1903, Dellenbaugh resumed his
personal explorations of the American Southwest; this time making a
more complete exploration of Zion Canyon and the north rim of the Grand
Canyon. E. H. Harriman mounted a second sub-Arctic exploration in
1906, this time to Spitzbergen, Norway, and Dellenbaugh was again
called upon to use his artistic talents to record the group's
adventures and discoveries. Not satisfied with one extended trip
in a single year, Dellenbaugh then set out for the West Indies in the
fall of 1906. From the West Indies he made one last journey on
horseback through his beloved Colorado River Basin, working his way
along the southern rim of the Grand Canyon and on into California,
where this incredible trip ended in 1907.
and illustrated several books about the Southwest's history, and the
Colorado River in particular, including: A Canyon Voyage : The narrative of the Second Powell Expedition (1908) and a history of exploration of the Colorado River, Romance of the Colorado River,
(1902). It was an unforgettable river he witnessed: " its
immediate tide presenting a formidable host of snarling waters whose
angry roar, reverberating wildly league after league between giant
rock-walls carved through the bowels of the earth . . ." (from The Romance of the Colorado River).
his declining years, Dellenbaugh became one of the leading members of a
New York group of explorers and naturalists. From 1909-1911, he
served as the librarian for the American Geographical Society, and in
1922 helped found the Explorer's Club and served as its first
vice-president for six years. Dellenbaugh's last trip to the West
was made under somewhat unusual circumstances. In 1929, he was
called to testify at the Colorado River Basin litigation between the
State of Utah and the Federal government. The question of who
owned the riverbed and its minerals hinged on whether the Colorado
River was navigable or not. If it was not, the Federal government
would own the land. Dellenbaugh testified for the government that,
although he had journeyed down the river, it was not navigable in the
traditional sense of the word. What impact his testimony had on
the final verdict is, of course, impossible to discern, but the case
was decided in the government's favor.
Dellenbaugh's art was
exhibited widely, including at the Paris Salons of 1883 and 1884. At
the end of his life he retired to upstate New York, and died in New
York City on January 29, 1935.
Written by Lonnie Pierson Dunbier
Peggy and Harold Samuels, The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Artists of the American West
Wooward Kesler, Painting in the North
Doris Dawdy, Artists of the American West
James Ballinger, Visitors to Arizona 1846-1980
Leslie Courtright, Essay, 'Out of the Archives', A Century of Sanctuary
|** If you discover credit omissions or have additional information to add, please let us know at registrar@AskART.com.|
Frederick Dellenbaugh is also mentioned in these AskART essays:
Painters of Grand Canyon