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 Robert Salmon  (1775 - c. 1848)

About: Robert Salmon
 

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Lived/Active: Massachusetts      Known for: harbor, ship and coastal view painting

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BIOGRAPHY for Robert Salmon
Facts/Data
Birth
1775 (Whitehaven, England)
 
Death
c. 1848

Lived/Active
Massachusetts

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harbor, ship and coastal view painting

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in Whitehaven, Cumberland, England, Robert Salmon became a marine painter inspired from living in port towns of Maryport and Whitehaven and being around ships and the sea. He also spent much time in Liverpool and in the ship-building town of Greenock on the west coast of Scotland.

In 1828, for unknown reasons, he came to America on the packet ship, "New York" and for thirteen years maintained a studio on Marine Railway Wharf at the bottom of Hanover Street. An eccentric, he lived in a small hut among the wharves of the Boston Harbor. He was enormously popular, and his work reflecting the years when the Harbor was booming with growth, was highly sought after by collectors including prominent Bostonians Samuel Cabot, Robert Forbes, and J.P. Cushing.

His paintings of that period number between three and four hundred and reflect 17th Century Dutch genre painting, peopled with tiny figures as well as the atmospheric qualities of Dutch marine tradition. He is credited as the founder of American Luminism and was highly influential on artists including Fitz Hugh Lane and William Bradford. A.T. Bricher, James Hamilton and William Haseltine.

He died sometime after 1845.

Source:
Michael David Zellman, "300 Years of American Art"

Biography from Lawrence Beebe Fine Art:
Robert Salmon was born in Whitehaven, England in October or November, 1775. The son of a jeweler, there does not seem to be much record of his early life, but what is known is that he had a familiarity of sailing ships and an intimate knowledge of how they worked.

In April, 1811 he moved from the Liverpool area to Greenock, Scotland and then back to Liverpool in October of 1822. In 1826 he returned to Greenock, then he left for London in 1827, and shortly thereafter he went to Southhampton, North Shields and Liverpool.

Choosing to make major change, Salmon sailed to Boston arriving on New Years Day, 1829 and staying until 1840. Living in a hut overlooking the Boston harbor, Salmon prospered as a marine painter, accepting commissions to paint ship portraits. He was thought to be an eccentric, solitary and irascible man.

Robert Salmon developed an individual style of painting characterized by precision of detail. Possessing a distinct formality, they were carefully crafted and highly disciplined works of art. Salmon earned the title as the "Father of Luminism" in America having a great influence on Fitz Hugh Lane (1804-1865) and other American Luminists.

His eyesight began to fail by 1840 so he left Boston to return to his native England where he is thought to have died circa 1845. His known production of works amounted to about nine hundred ninety-nine; however, some of his earliest works and some of his latest works are thought to be undocumented.

His paintings can be found in the following museums, the U.S. Naval Academy; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; National Maritime Museum, Greenwich; Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool; New Britain Museum of American Art, Connecticut; Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, Connecticut; Mariners Museum, Newport News; William A. Farnsworth Art Museum, Rockland, Maine; Peabody Museum of Salem; Shelburne Museum, Vermont; Worcester Museum of Art, Massachusetts.

Biography from Roger King Fine Art, Q - Z:
In spite of the enormous influence he had on the development of American marine painting, the details of Robert Salmon's career are sketchy.  He was born in northern England, moved to London in the 1790s and to Liverpool in 1806.  His paintings show an intimate knowledge of ships and the sea, and reflect the influence of 17th century Dutch marine painting.  His use of small, detailed figures is unique within the genre.  He created atmospheric effects with ease, and is credited with establishing the luminist tradition in American painting.

Salmon emigrated to Boston in 1828, as the city was undergoing major waterfront development, giving him numerous opportunities to establish himself as a painter of marine scenes and ship portraits.  He also painted theatrical scenery and panoramas, including drop curtains for the Federal Street Theatre and a series of large scale works of naval battles.

Salmon was an eccentric, living in a hut on the wharves, but his work was in great demand.  He left Boston in 1842, following an auction of his work.  His last dated works are Italian scenes done in 1845, after which he seems to have disappeared. There is no record of the date of his death.


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