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 Edward Lamson Henry  (1841 - 1919)

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Lived/Active: New York/South Carolina      Known for: idealized genre, sea-landscape and portrait painting

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Ad Code: 2
Edward Lamson Henry
from Auction House Records.
The 9:45 A.M. Accomodation, Stratford, C
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in Charleston, South Carolina, on January 12, 1841, Edward Lamson Henry, with a bent for nostalgia, became a noted painted of super-realistic genre scenes of early 19th century rural America.  With minute detail, these works are now considered old fashioned, but they reflected the love of collecting old things that was stimulated by the 1875 Philadelphia Exposition.  He also did portraits, and his series of railroad scenes are particularly notable.

As a child, Henry was orphaned and brought at age seven to New York City where he was raised by relatives.  He showed early art talent and began study at age 14 with Walter Oddie.  In 1858, he enrolled at the Pennsylvania Academy and then studied in Paris from 1860 to 1862 with Gustave Courbet and Charles Gleyre and traveled in Italy. However, he adopted none of Courbet's dramatic painting style.

Fully trained as an artist, Henry returned to the United States in 1863, and served in the Civil War in the Quartermaster General's Department.  He recorded many war scenes on the James and Potomac Rivers, and this experience influenced his work in that he continued to depict transportation throughout his career.  He also did battle sketches with the Union Army in Virginia.

In 1871, he returned to Europe, and then made another trip there in 1875 after his marriage. Henry was one of the founders of the New York Cragsmoor Art Colony, near Ellenville, where he and his wife built a home in the 1880s.  He did sentimental paintings at Cragsmoor that reflected beauty rather than harsh conditions of the people or the rugged landscape.

Edward Henry exhibited at the National Academy of Design for sixty years. Many of his works are owned by the New York State Department of Education.

He died at Cragsmoor on May 11, 1919.

American Art Review
Michael David Zellman, 300 Years of American Art
Matthew Baigell, Dictionary of American Art

Biography from Charleston Renaissance Gallery:

Revered for his detailed, nostalgic genre scenes of nineteenth century American life, Edward Lamson Henry was born in Charleston, South Carolina, but moved to New York City as a young boy. His artistic talent was recognized early on and he received private lessons from his cousin Samuel P. Avery, an engraver, art dealer, and founder of the Metropolitan Museum of Art; from Robert Walter Weir, the drawing master at West Point; and from Thomas Prichard Rossiter. Henry enrolled for three years at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and later continued his education in the art academies of Europe, including study with Charles Gleyre and Gustave Courbet.

Henry first showed at the National Academy of Design in 1859 and, with the exception of one year, would exhibit there annually for the next sixty years. He served briefly as a clerk in the Union forces during the Civil War, followed by a period of European travel. Returning to New York in 1872, Henry determined that distinctly American subjects would occupy his brush for the remainder of his career. African Americans appear in many of Henry's paintings from an early date. He is known to have traveled South in 1887 and to have painted several works using only black models. The artist often used photography as an aid to his easel painting.

A founder of the Cragsmoor art colony, Henry enjoyed financial success during his lifetime. His palette and subject matter remained consistent and popular from the 1880s on and he was regarded by at least one contemporary critic as the "Meissonier of America."

This essay is copyrighted by the Charleston Renaissance Gallery and may not be reproduced or transmitted without written permission from Hicklin Galleries, LLC.

Biography from The Johnson Collection:
Born in Charleston, South Carolina and orphaned at an early age, Henry had sufficient means, family ties and social connections to enter the art circles of New York at the highest level. Following early art studies in that city with Walter Mason Oddie, he enrolled in the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia in 1858, coming under the instruction of Paul Weber. His most formative period, however, occurred in Paris between 1860 and 1862 at the prestigious École des Beaux-Arts. There, he worked with the academicians Joseph-Nicholas Robert-Fleury and Marc-Charles-Gabriel Gleyre, whose penchant for scenes of classical antiquity cast in nostalgic terms exerted a permanent influence. Henry returned to New York in 1862 and established a studio at the popular Tenth Street Studio Building.

During the Civil War, Henry served as captain’s clerk on board a Union supply ship in the James River. From this vantage point, he made a series of sketches, dating to 1864, based on his observations of the Virginia countryside under siege from Union forces. Station on the Morris and Essex Railroad, also painted in 1864, marked the beginning of Henry’s interest in sentimental depictions of antiquated train stations. He was elected an associate of the National Academy of Design in 1867 and elevated to full academician in 1869. That same year, The Old Westover House, a painting based on the artist’s war sketches, was exhibited, the earliest of a series of works which recounted transformations in Southern life and culture. Henry made a study trip to Europe in 1871 and, upon his return in 1872, completed his monumental City Point, Virginia, Headquarters of General Grant. President Grant was said to be so taken with the accuracy of the painting that he invited the artist to the White House. At that meeting, the president told Henry that “we are the men who make history, but you are the men who perpetuate it.”

From 1875 to 1880, Henry and his wife lived in London where he exhibited at the Royal Academy and the Suffolk Street Gallery, home of the Gallery of British Artists, specialists in traditional historical genre painting. From an address in London, Henry exhibited at the 1878 Universal Exposition in Paris. Beginning in the 1880s, Henry became a central figure in the emerging summer art colony of Cragsmoor, located in Ulster County, New York, which later attracted such noted painters as Frederick Samuel Dellenbaugh, Helen Maria Turner and Charles Courtney Curran.

In a tribute read at the annual meeting of the National Academy of Design following Henry’s death, academy president Samuel Herbert Adams noted that no one could “doubt the peculiar historic interest as well as the genuine charm of the paintings of Edward Lamson Henry” whose “art has a characteristic American quality.” In Sight of Home typifies one of the essential themes in Henry’s work, the passage from an unknown locale to one more endearingly familiar. An older couple would seem to be returning from a journey to the delight of their miniscule relations on the far horizon. Though the setting and models are associated with Henry’s life at Cragsmoor, the presence of the African American child riding on the back of the buggy echoes Henry’s Southern scenes.

Henry’s work can be found in the collections of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Corcoran Gallery of Art, New-York Historical Society and Terra Foundation for American Art.

The Johnson Collection, Spartanburg, South Carolina

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Edward Henry is also mentioned in these AskART essays:
Civil War Art
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