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 Cleveland Salter Rockwell  (1837 - 1907)

About: Cleveland Salter Rockwell


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Lived/Active: California/Oregon/Ohio      Known for: survey, marine, landscape, coastals

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BIOGRAPHY for Cleveland Rockwell
1837 (Youngstown, Ohio)
1907 (Portland, Oregon)


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survey, marine, landscape, coastals

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Painted in Latin America
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in 1837, in Youngstown, Ohio, Cleveland Rockwell was a marine survey illustrator, topographer, map maker and after the Civil War, a painter on the West Coast, doing coastal, ocean and river scenes in oil and watercolor and ship portraits on commission.

Early in his career, Cleveland Rockwell worked for the Coast Geodetic Department until the Civil War. One of his early projects was a survey of New York Harbor, and then beginning in 1857, he made a mapping tour of South America including the charting of the Magdalena River in Colombia.

He received childhood training in art and studied engineering at the Polytechnic School at Troy, New York and at the University of New York. Before the Civil War in his work for the Coast Geodetic Department, he was spotted as a talented cartographer. In this capacity, he served in the Union Army in many theaters. His service included working with General Sherman during the march through Georgia.

After the War, he rejoined the Geodetic Survey until 1892. Settling in San Francisco from 1868 to 1878 and then Portland, Oregon, he became chief of the Northwest section, conducting surveys in California, Oregon, British Columbia, and Alaska. He surveyed the 50 miles of Oregon coast south of Astoria and the Columbia and Willamette Rivers. Rockwell also traveled to Alaska, and his watercolors are considered some of the finest nineteenth-century watercolors of southeast Alaska.

Also of interest is his work on the Magdalena River Survey, (1865-1866), done at the request of the Colombian government, represented by General Salgar. During this period he produced a number of drawings and watercolors.

Although Rockwell did not become a full-time painter until his retirement from the USCS in 1892, the many sketches he made on his expeditions served as the basis for his later oil and watercolor paintings. Rockwell was a founding member of the Portland Art Club.

Cleveland Rockwell died in 1907.

Sources include:
Peggy and Harold Samuels, "The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Artists of the American West"
Peter Falk, "Who Was Who in American Art"

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in Youngstown, OH on Nov. 24, 1837, a descendant of Governor Bradford of the Plymouth (MA) colony and Moses Cleveland (for whom he was named) who laid out the city of Cleveland. In 1853-54 Rockwell studied at the Troy (NY) Academy and then earned a degree in mechanical engineering at New York University. He began a life-time career with the U.S. Coast Survey in 1856 and after a short time was made harbor engineer for the Port of New York. He served as a cartographer for the Union Army during the Civil War and in 1867 was transferred to California where he continued his work for the U.S. Coast Survey. Based in San Francisco for 11 years, Rockwell exhibited with the local art association and helped establish the School of Design. He surveyed in northern California and along the Columbia and Willamette rivers of southern Oregon. He painted as a hobby throughout his career and at some point had further art study in Europe. His artistic output during his years in California consisted of topographical drawings as well as oils and watercolors of both California and Oregon. In 1892 he retired from the Coast Survey and was active as an artist in Oregon until his death in Portland on March 22, 1907. Member: Oregon AA; Portland Sketch Club. Exh: SFAA from 1873. In: Flavel Museum (Astoria, OR); Portland (OR) Museum; Anchorage Museum; CHS.
Edan Hughes, "Artists in California, 1786-1940"
City Directory; Cleveland Rockwell, Scientist and Artist by Franz Stenzel; Early Days in the Northwest cat. (Portland Museum, 1959).
Nearly 20,000 biographies can be found in Artists in California 1786-1940 by Edan Hughes and is available for sale ($150). For a full book description and order information please click here.

Biography from Braarud Fine Art:
Born in Youngstown, Ohio, Cleveland Rockwell received early training in art and engineering. He was a mapmaker for the Union Army in the Civil War, after which he made a brief mapping tour of South America and then settled in Portland, Oregon. He conducted surveys in Alaska, British Columbia, California, and Oregon.

Although he did not become a full-time painter until his retirement in 1892, the many sketches he made on his expeditions served as the basis for his later oil and watercolor paintings. He exhibited regularly in San Francisco and Portland and was a founding member of the Portland Art Club.

Rockwell's background in mapping and surveying influenced his work. His rendering is tight and accurate, with attention to detail and subdued color. He achieved, however, much more than a dry verisimilitude. Despite the accumulation of detail, his touch is light and sure, never labored, and his art combines luminosity with extraordinary accuracy of light, color, and documentary detail. His are perhaps the finest nineteenth-century watercolors of southeast Alaska.

Rockwell's life and work are discussed at length in Franz Stenzel's 1972 monograph "Cleveland Rockwell, Scientist and Artist, 1837-1907."

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