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 James William Abert  (1820 - 1897)

About: James William Abert


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Lived/Active: New York/Kansas/New Jersey      Known for: sketch artist-expedition

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BIOGRAPHY for James Abert
1820 (Mount Holly, New Jersey)
1897 (Newport, Kentucky)

New York/Kansas/New Jersey

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sketch artist-expedition

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in Mount Holly, New Jersey, James Abert became a topographical artist with the corps of engineers and made several expeditions into the West from which he did illustrated reports with watercolor sketches.

In 1838, he entered the Military Academy at West Point, after attending Princeton University, and after West Point Graduation in 1842 was assigned to a U.S. Infantry Regiment at Detroit and then transferred to the Corps of Topographical Engineers in 1843.

In 1845, he joined the survey party of Captain John C Fremont from Bent's Fort, near what is now La Junta, Colorado, to explore and map the Canadian River from the headwaters in New Mexico across the Texas Panhandle to the Arkansas River in Indian Territory near Fort Gibson. On this trip, Abert did numerous watercolor sketches, and after completion of the journey, went to St. Louis.

In 1846, he was part of a New Mexico survey from Santa Fe to Socorro.

From 1848 to 1850, he was assistant in drawing at West Point and also taught moral philosophy, English literature, and composition.  During the 1850s he worked on the improvement of western rivers and spent two years in Florida followed by travels in Europe where he studied fortifications and arsenals.  During the Civil War, he was with the Corps of Engineers in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, but resigned in 1864 because of injuries from a fall from a horse.

After the Civil War, he had a mercantile business in Cincinnati from 1865 to 1865, was a patent examiner in Washington DC from 1868 to 1871, and from 1877 to 1879 was professor of mathematics and drawing at the University of Missouri in Columbia.  In 1895, he was appointed a Major in the Army by a special act of Congress and took retirement under that auspices.  For awhile he then served as president of a state teacher-examining board in Kentucky and contributed writings to magazine in the area.

He died at his home in Newport, Kentucky.

Dictionary of Artists in America by George Groce and David Wallace
Texas Painters, Sculptors, and Graphic Artists, John and Deborah Powers

This biography from the Archives of AskART:

James William Abert was born on November 18, 1820 in Mount Holly, NJ and died on August 19, 1897, in Newport, KY.  He was a draughtsman.  James William Abert graduated from Princeton University and U.S. Military Academy at West Point.  He was a member of the Corps of Topographical Engineers who illustrated his 1846-47 trip from Fort Leavenworth to New Mexico.  Taught drawing at West Point, served with the Army Corps of Engineers, operated a mercantile business in Cincinnati, OH, and taught English literature at the Univ. of Missouri.

Abert’s work has been reprinted in books such as, Through the Country of the Comanche Indians in the Fall of the Year 1845:The Journal of a U.S. Army Expedition Led by Lieutenant James W. Abert of the Topographical Engineers, Artist Extraordinary Whose Paintings of Indians and their Wild West Illustrate this Book (San Francisco: J. Howell, 1970), Western America in 1846-1847:The Original Travel Diary of Lieutenant J.W. Abert, Who Mapped New Mexico for the United States Army (San Francisco: J. Howell, 1966), and Expedition to the Southwest: An 1845 Reconnaissance of Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, and Oklahoma (Lincoln: Univ. of Nebraska Press, 1999).
Fred Rosenstock Collection,Columbia, MO
Thomas Streeter Collection, Morristown, NJ

Sources include:
Dawdy; Handbook of Texas Online  accessed July 22, 2005

This and over 1,750 other biographies can be found in Biographical Dictionary of Kansas Artists (active before 1945) compiled by Susan V. Craig, Art & Architecture Librarian at University of Kansas.

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