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 Daniel Wagner  (1802 - 1888)

About: Daniel Wagner
 

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Lived/Active: New York/Massachusetts      Known for: portrait-miniature painting

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BIOGRAPHY for Daniel Wagner
Facts/Data
Birth
1802 (Leyden, Massachusetts)
 
Death
1888 (Norwich, New York)

Lived/Active
New York/Massachusetts

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portrait-miniature painting

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:

The following text is adapted from a copy of a newspaper clipping found at the Gurnsey Memorial Library in Norwich, New York.

At his home on Hayes St., Saturday evening, Mr. Daniel Wagner, the well known artist, died at the age of 86 years (1888). He never recovered from a shock of paralysis suffered about two weeks prior, and was too feeble to rally after lingering until Saturday

"He was born at Layden Mass. April 14 th, 1802 and moved to this town with his parents in the fall of 1805.  At sixteen years of age he was a well grown youth, five feet ten inches high a well proportioned and could out work, out run or out jump any one of his age. In those days, farmers had all their own grain ground at the mills near by, and boys went to mill evenings so as to be in school in the day time.  One evening he went to mill with grain, and having to wait his turn, played a game of "goal" with the other boys.  When his grist was brought out, though in a great perspiration, he placed the grist on his horse and rode nearly two miles, in the teeth of a northwest wind.  He took a severe cold which settled in his right hip joint.  He was treated with "calomel and jallop and freely bled."  He suffered intense pain and his right leg contracted about three inches.  Drs. Mitchell and Packer were called in consultation and pronounced his disease "acute hip disease."  Dr. Mason, who had just been Chenango’s Representative in Congress, was also consulted and gave it as his dictum that his patient might live three months.  Despite the prophecies of the physicians, he rallied and could move on crutches.  Then the socket joint of the left leg was attacked and that hip thrown out of joint.  He was confined to the bed for a year by this trouble.  He finally recovered so as to be able to get about with short crutches. 

While in this crippled condition he began to sketch the heads of his friends for amusement.  He soon found he had decided talent for drawing giving individuality.  His friends soon began to insist upon keeping his sketches and paying him for them.  One day he was a guest in a home where the daughter had just returned from boarding school and had a box of water colors.  She taught him how to use them and he colored a head of her, with which she was greatly pleased.  Going to Oxford soon after he saw a portrait of a beautiful lady by Rembrant Peale.  He copied it in oils with gratifying success.  He then began to teach his sister, Miss Louise Wagner, the details of drawing and gave her the head of "Thomas Jefferson," to copy.  She succeeded so well that they determined to pursue art.

About this time he was confined to his bed for a year, but, his health slightly improving, he began to paint miniatures "lying on his back and having his sitter beside his bed.  His sister decided to devote herself to the same line of art, and they spent several years painting portraits in the towns of Chenango Valley, going as far south as Binghamton and north to Utica and Whitestown and west to Ithaca.  At the latter place they became acquainted with William E. Seward and under his advice went to Albany, where they painted miniatures of the members of legislature.  From Albany they went to New York taking letters of introduction.  From a short autobiography we take the following, "We took rooms at the Astor House and being lame I sent my letters to those for whom they were intended.  Among them was one Newman the bookseller.  He called, looked at our specimens, pronounced them excellent but said- "I fear there is one thing you lack to succeed well in New York and that is brass.  My motto is that brass is gold in New York.  You must keep a brass candlestick by you and rub your face morning and night till you get brass enough for New York.  Then you will succeed."

Among the New York visitors was Dr. Valentine Mott, the great surgeon.  He examined Mr. Wagner and pronounced his case one of the most remarkable he had ever seen. "I have never known," said the great surgeon "one to live through a dislocation of both hips."  From New York, the brother and sister returned to Albany, where they painted portraits of Erastus Corning, Martin Van Buren and Silas Wright. In 1848 they painted Vice President Millard Fillmore.  In 1853 they went to Washington and painted the family of President Fillmore, visiting the White House and attending the receptions.  They painted many Congressmen and Daniel Webster, then Secretary of State. Returning to New York they established a studio in the Dodworth Building and took on landscape painting in oils.  They made studies on the Hudson and in the Adirondacks.  Some of these paintings were exhibited at the Centennial. 

About 1870 they returned to this village, where they have resided since.  Mr. Wagner was a very pleasant and interesting man to meet. His struggle and victory over the disease which made him almost a helpless cripple for sixty years was as remarkable as pathetic.  His sister who has been his inseparable companion all these years, is left to mourn her great loss."

Source:
Submitted as a bulletin by Jack Phelps


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