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 George Herbert McCord  (1848 - 1909)

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Lived/Active: New York/New Jersey      Known for: landscape and marine painting

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George Herbert McCord
from Auction House Records.
Lake Luzerne, New York
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Known for atmospheric marine and landscape paintings in oil, pastel, and watercolor and for black and white drawings, George McCord was born in New York City and remained primarily a resident in Brooklyn although he traveled widely and from 1883 also had a studio in Morristown, New Jersey.  He was part of the second generation of Hudson River School painters.

He studied at the Hudson River Institute, the Claverack Academy in Claverack, New York and with Samuel Morse and James Fairman.  By 1870, he was exhibiting at the National Academy of Design.

He made frequent sketching trips in New England, Canada, Florida, and the Upper Mississippi and participated in one of the exclusive excursions sponsored by the Santa Fe Railroad to paint the Grand Canyon.  He was also part of a special Erie Canal painting trip, and was commissioned by Andrew Carnegie to paint the scenery around his castle in Cluny, Scotland.  He lived for three years in Venice and later in Paris.

In 1880, he was elected an Associate of the National Academy and had many exhibitions throughout the country.

Michael David Zellman, 300 Years of American Art

Biography from Charleston Renaissance Gallery:
The wild places of Florida appealed to artists including Paul Frenzeny, who in the1870s sketched in the untamed Everglades, but it was the bucolic aspects of "The Land of Flowers", which beckoned to painters of a more Romantic persuasion. (1)

George Inness found the verdant country around the west coast fishing village of Tarpon Springs a perfect subject for his Tonalist brush, and made Tarpon Springs his winter headquarters from 1892.  Martin Johnson Heade, whose reputation was built on his dewy renderings of South American hummingbirds and orchids, settled in St. Augustine in 1885.  His studio was on the grounds of the fashionable resort hotel, the Ponce de Leon, which had been built to the design of Beaux Arts architects Carrere and Hastings. Painters Frank Shapleigh, Otto Bacher and John Bunyan Bristol also flocked to St. Augustine and the Ponce de Leon in the winter months. (2)

They came to paint the local scenery and thus meet an ever-growing demand on the part of tourists for mementos of happy holidays in a sunny climate.

George Herbert McCord was a New York painter who visited Florida as early as 1874, when it was just becoming the mecca for great Eastern vacationers. McCord was born in Manhattan on August 1, 1848 and began his art studies in that city in his eighteenth year. (3)

He was a painter of landscapes and coastal views and plied a variety of mediums including oil, watercolor, pastel and pen and ink.  He exhibited at the National Academy of Design for the first time in 1868, and was a frequent exhibitor thereafter. His pictures could also be seen at the exhibitions of the American Water Color Society and the Society of American Artists. That McCord's work was very well received is attested by the awards that it earned, including medals at the Mechanics Institute Fair in Boston in 1883 and the World's Cotton Exposition in New Orleans the following year. (4)

Over a career that spanned forty years, he searched far and wide for landscape and marine subjects.  He roamed as far south as Mexico, as far north as Canada, as far west as the Grand Canyon, and as far east as Europe.  His views in pastel of Orr's Island and Cliff Island off the coast of Maine, Oyster Bay, Cape Elizabeth, Gloucester and the Isle of Wight were featured in an exhibition at the Salmagundi Club in 1904. (5) A critic for American Art News on a visit to McCord's studio the following year praised the artist's views of Dordrecht and Plymouth Harbor while announcing that he was embarking on a ten-week sketching tour of Mexico. (6)

Most interesting in the context of a collection of Southern art are McCord's paintings, which resulted from his trips to Florida in the 1870s and 80s.  Some of these he exhibited at the Brooklyn Art Association beginning in 1874.  From the titles of these pictures as they appear in the Association's catalogues, it is possible to deduce that he was on the scenic St. John's River; that he visited the "antique town" (7) of St. Augustine, and that he roamed in the vicinity of the Oklawaha River in the central part of the state.  Many of these epitomize the "landscape of longing", which drew artist and tourist alike to Florida and other Southern points one hundred years ago.

1. Derived from the Latin, "Florida" translated as "Land of Flowers." The literal English translation occurs repeatedly in George M. Barbour, Florida for Tourists, Invalids and Settlers. New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1887.

2. Frederic A. Sharf. "St. Augustine: City of Artists, 1883-1895," The Magazine Antiques, vol. XC, no. 2,. August 1966, pp. 220-223.

3. McCord wrote that he studied with Moses Morse, who is believed to be painter and inventor Samuel Finley Breese Morse, but that he was "chiefly self-taught". Information sheet filled out, in ink, by the artist, for The Artist's Year Book. The Art League Publishing Company, no date. In George McCord papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

4. Information sheet filled out, in ink, by the artist, for The Artist's Year Book. The Art League Publishing Company, no date. In George McCord papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

5. "Exhibition of Pastels by George H. McCord and Paintings by Charles F. Naegele", Salmagundi Club, New York, January 8-17, 1904.

6. American Art News, vol. III, No. 67 (February 18, 1905), n.p. and no. 68 (February 25, 1905), n.p.

7. Ledyard Bill. A Winter in Florida. New York: Wood & Holbrook, 1869, p. 153-172.

Cynthia Seibels

Copyright 1990 Robert M. Hicklin Jr., Inc.
This essay and its contents are the property of Robert M. Hicklin Jr., Inc. and may not be reproduced in part or in full without express written permission.

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George McCord is also mentioned in these AskART essays:
Painters of Grand Canyon
Hudson River School Painters

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