Van Dearing Perrine
(1869 - 1955)
Van Dearing Perrine was active/lived in New Jersey, Kansas, Connecticut. Van Perrine is known for landscape, child figure genre, and light filled painting.
Van Dearing Perrine
Biography from the Archives of askART
The following is from Jan Bess:
Biography from the Archives of askART
My mother has been doing genealogy for 18 years. We are related to Mr. Perrine on my Mother's family tree. Her "notes in her research" for Van Dearing Perrine are:
The "New York Times", dated December 11, 1955, page 88: "Died December 10,
1955, in Stamford, Connecticut Hospital, age 87. Lived in New Canaan, CT..
the last four years and before that in Maplewood, New Jersey.
He was a distinguished painter of light; won Altman prize at the National Academy exhibition; was the subject of a book "A Full Life" by Lolita Flockhard, published 1939 by Christopher Publishing House of Boston.
Mr. Perrine wrote "Let the Child Draw," published in 1936 by Frederick Stokes, Co., NYC, which was required reading in may schools; he lived for may years in Englewood on the Palisades (N.J. side of the Hudson River) and his painting "The Palisades" was bought by Theodore Roosevelt and was hung in the White House.
In this book it states that Van Dearing Perrine's studio was on the southern slope of Watchung Mountain in the little community of Wyoming, New Jersey (Page 1); later on page 70, "Our studio is situated on a hillside which overlooks the Oranges, and Newark. Behind them rises the skyline of New York City."
Born Garnett, Sept. 10, 1869; died Stamford, CT, Dec. 10, 1955. Painter, specialized in landscapes. Learned and practiced the trade of plasterer for several years. Moved to New York in the early 1890s to study art at the Cooper Institute and the National Academy of Design. In 1902 he moved to New Jersey where he lived in a series of homes near the Palisades and, based on his various paintings of the region, earned the sobriquet "Thoreau of the Palisades." After 1912, Perrine became increasingly obsessed with color, designing and building "color machines" that projected abstract color patterns on a screen or wall. By the 1930s he was painting in an impressionistic style with a thick impasto. Author of Let the Child Draw (NY: Stokes, 1935.)
Biography from MB Fine Art, LLC
Susan Craig, "Biographical Dictionary of Kansas Artists (active before 1945)"
Newlin, Gertrude Dix (Development of Art in Kansas. Typed Manuscript, 1951); American Art Annual. New York: American Federation of Arts, 1898-1947 12/14/20/22/24/27; Who’s Who in American Art. New York: American Federation of Arts, 1936- v.1=1936-37 v.3= 1941-42 v.2=1938-39 v.4=1940-47. 1, 2, 3, 4; Sain, Reinbach, Edna, comp. “Kansas Art and Artists”, in Collections of the Kansas State Historical Society. v. 17, 1928. p. 571-585.; Fielding, Mantle. Mantle Fielding’s Dictionary of American Painters, Sculptors and Engravers, with an Addendum containing Corrections and Additional Material on the Original Entries. Compiled by James F. Carr. New York: James F. Carr Publ., 1965.; Schwab, Arnold T. A Matter of Life and Death: Vital Biographical Facts about Selected American Artists. New York: Garland Pub., 1977., Arnold T. A Matter of Life and Death: Vital Biographical Facts about Selected American Artists. New York: Garland Pub., 1977.; Van Dearing Perrine, 1869-1955: first decade on the Palisades (1902-1912) (NY: Graham Gallery, 1986); Flockhart, Lolita, A Full-Life, the Story of Van Dearing Perrine (Boston: Christopher, 1939); AskArt, www.askart.com, accessed Dec. 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.
"Rediscovery: Van Dearing Perrine" by John H. Baur
** If you discover credit omissions or have additional information to add, please let us know at
It may seem incongruous to "rediscover" a painter whose work was bought for the White House by John La Farge on the request of Theodore Roosevelt, who won awards at the Carnegie Institute in 1903 and the Panama Pacific Exposition in 1915, who was called by Richard Watson Gilder "the most original figure in American landscape art today" and who was elected a National Academician in 1931.
The cycle of taste, which spins faster with each decade of the century, has relegated Van Dearing Perrine's later art—with its brilliant color, its playing children and unabashed sentiment to a limbo from which it may still be too soon to recall it. But it is not too soon, I think, to reappraise the early paintings which Perrine did in the decade 1902-1912, when he lived like a hermit at the foot of the Palisades and painted the somber patterns of cliff, ice and river in almost abstract designs of considerable strength.
Perrine's life story has been told in a full length biography by Lolita L. W. Flockhart, "A Full Life" (Boston, 1939), with a foreword by Royal Cortissoz. It is over worshipful but preserves the essential facts.
Briefly, he was born in 1869 in Garnett, Kansas, son of a homesteader and trader whose early death left the family destitute. His youth was one of hardship. After the family broke up he farmed, worked as a cowboy, lived for several years as a hobo, learn plastering and lathing. This supported him after he came to New York, probably in the early 1890s, to study art at Cooper Institute, then at the school of the National Academy of Design.
Among Perrine's close student friends were Maurice Sterne, Alfred H. Maurer and Maurice Prendergast. In 1899 he shared a studio with Sterne at 835 Broadway, and this became headquarters for the Country Sketch Club, of which Perrine was a founder. The members painted together in New Jersey.
Perrine's emergence as a mature artist began in 1902, when he moved to an abandoned quarry-worker's shack on a narrow shelf of land under the Palisades near the later site of the Dyckman Street ferry. At that time it was accessible only by rowboat from the New York shore, or by a steep path from Coytesville, New Jersey, which skirted the Devil's Elbow. This is the scene of one of Perrine's first paintings done here, "The Robbers", which is in fact a picture of himself and a friend, Sammy Weiss, bringing down provisions to the cabin. Painted in the fall of 1902, it won Perrine an honorable mention at the Carnegie Institute a year later and was bought for the Institute's collection.
In 1903, the artist rented a slightly more comfortable building, which had served as both a chapel and schoolhouse, in Palisades Park. In the same year he had his first one man exhibition at Glaenzer's in New York, selling $1,100 worth of paintings. That summer he went to Europe with his lifelong friend and patron Carlton Noyes, who was to see him through many financial crisis. Mrs. Montgomery Sears was also an early buyer of his work. In 1904-05 his reputation began to grow. Durand-Ruel gave him an exhibition, and slightly later (1906-08) Mary Bacon Ford handled his work at her New Gallery.
In 1908 his converted chapel burned, but he found and rented another house near the site of his first shack. This was his home when he married Theodora Snow in 1911, and they lived there until the Park Commission expelled them 1n 1922. The somber canvases or rock, sky and water in severely simplified masses which won Perrine his reputation as the Thoreau of the Palisades and which today seem his most interesting work were painted in these various cliff side home between 1902 and 1912. Some are still owned by his daughter, including "Coasting Firewood" and "End of the Squall".
Others have recently entered museum collections, such as "Ice Floes", shown in the Armory Show of 1913 and now in the Whitney Museum of American Art, or Hudson River, in the National collection of Fine Arts in Washington. Many have disappeared but can be studied in two early articles on Perrine, one by John Spargo in The Craftsman (August 1907), the other an anonymous biography in Current Literature (October 1906).
To a Mr. Skinner of the Brooklyn Eagle (quoted in Current Literature), these paintings of the Palisades were "grand, gloomy and peculiar," witnessing "an individuality so assertive as to threaten anarchy to academic methods." Now they seem less revolutionary, more in the tradition of Ryder and Blakelock, though perhaps more consciously abstract.
After 1912 Perrine became increasingly obsessed with color. Starting in that year he designed and built the first of four or five "color machines" which projected abstract color patterns on a screen or wall. One, described in The World Magazine (May 26, 1918), consisted of a light shining through four reels of architect's transparency painted in strips of color and moving, apparently by a crank, in four opposed directions. The headline called it "A unique Invention for Giving Actual Dynamic Expression to the Universal Idea Sometimes Vaguely Called 'Cubism' or 'Futurism.'" Perrine's painting reflected his new concern.
In 1917 he exhibited at the Rochester Memorial Art Gallery sixty "leaf impressions" under such titles as "Movement From Green Through Gray Yellow to Gray Orange. His aim, as quoted later in an exhibition catalogue of the Montclair, New Jersey, Art Museum (1965), was "an abstract art of color and light, one in which the deflection of sunbeams may play subservient to the dreams of man." His pictures of children and his landscapes entered an impressionist phase, full of blue shadows and strong contrasts of warm colors. The paint was piled on in a thick impasto, the surface rough and glittering. In the best of these, such as "Sunburst" of about 1930, the artist's instinctive feeling for abstract design controlled the exuberant color and created a nature poetry not unlike that of Arthur G. Dove.
At all times Perrine was a draftsman of great vitality. A series of drawings that he did of Isadora Duncan in 1915 capture her dance movements with spirit and economy; she liked them so much that she reproduced one on the cover of her Metropolitan Opera House program (November 21, 1916), relegating another by Bourdelle to the back. Perrine also drew anatomical studies with forceful realism, and was the author of a book, "Let the Child Draw." The artist died at his home in New Canaan, Connecticut, on December 11, 1955.
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