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 Ralph Earl DeCamp  (1858 - 1936)

About: Ralph Earl DeCamp


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Lived/Active: Montana/Illinois      Known for: landscape, western illustrator

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BIOGRAPHY for Ralph DeCamp
1858 (Attica, New York)
1936 (Chicago, Illinois)


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landscape, western illustrator

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Biography from Thomas Nygard Gallery:
Ralph Earl DeCamp (1858-1936)

Ralph DeCamp was born in Attica, New York in 1858. Today, he is most remembered as a Montana landscape painter, muralist, illustrator and photographer. DeCamp spent his childhood near Milwaukee where he studied art with W.A. Sydaten. In 1871 the family moved to Minnesota where DeCamp operated a threshing business while painting and teaching.

When his wife died, he studied art at Pennsylvania School of Art in Philadelphia from 1881-1882. Then in 1885 DeCamp was commissioned by the Northern Pacific Railroad to paint Yellowstone National Park. Sternfels said that the "Northern Pacific did for Ralph DeCamp what the Great Northern did for John Fery," and that offices and stations of those two railroads could "rightfully be called Montana's first art galleries."

DeCamp returned home to Minnesota by way of Prickly Pear Valley in Montana. The scenic possibilities of this region prompted him to move to Helena, Montana the following year. Hear he worked as a draftsman for the Interior Department, and with Charlie Russell organized the Helena Sketch Club. Russell is quoted on DeCamp's landscapes as "that old boy can sure paint the wettest water. You can hear the rivers ripple." DeCamp also met and became friends with Edgar Paxson.

In 1912 and 1927 DeCamp was commissioned to paint landscape murals for the Montana Capitol. He was also a noted photographer. Much of his sketching and photography was done on the Hilger Ranch. The glass plates have since been donated by Dan Hilger to the Montana Historical Society.

Today DeCamps work can be found at the C.M. Russell Gallery and in many private collections. He is one of Montana's most noted early landscape painters.

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