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George Washington Seavey

 (1841 - 1913)
George Washington Seavey was active/lived in Massachusetts, Florida.  George Seavey is known for bright, colorful, and large floral still life painting.

George Washington Seavey

Biography from the Archives of askART

George Washington Seavey
(1841 – 1913)
Very little is currently known about the still-life painter, George W. Seavey. Maybelle Mann’s Art in Florida, 1999, suggests that Seavey came to St. Augustine in 1883, the year of financier and hotel magnate “Henry Flagler’s first visit” to America’s oldest city. And while Maybelle Mann misses the date by one year – Flagler arrived in 1882 – she does mention George W. Seavey in her discussion of Flagler. Later, after the construction of the Ponce de Leon Hotel and its suite of artist’s studios, managed by Seavey’s brother, Osborne, George Washington Seavey settled in as one of the seasonal resident artists at the Ponce.

Sandra Barghini, in her elegant publication, A Society of Painters, Flagler’s St. Augustine Art Colony, 1998, notes that both of the Seavey brothers were from New England and that George also maintained a studio/workshop in the “Studio Building” in Boston and a studio near the Maplewood Hotel in Bethlehem, New Hampshire.

Barghini notes that Seavey was one of the most popular painters at the Ponce de Leon Hotel where Flagler had Seavey’s work hung in the Hotel’s grand parlors. Barghini also includes quotations from the St. Augustine Tatler newspaper of March 31, 1894, praising Seavey as worthy of “attention” and “delightful.”

In 1885, Flagler, the co-founder of Standard Oil, hired architectural services from McKim, Mead and White to design a new hotel for St. Augustine. Flagler’s two architects, John Carrere and Thomas Hastings, launched their own firm, Carrere and Hastings, as they designed and built their Spanish Renaissance Revival masterpiece between 1885 and 1887. Louis C. Tiffany was retained to decorate the hotel with stained glass, terra cotta reliefs, mosaics, and murals by Virgilio Tojetti (1851-1901) and George W. Maynard (1843-1923). The Ponce was the first large scale building in America made from an exotic mixture of poured concrete containing coquina shell. Its grand style influenced the development of revival styles in Florida for the next 100 years. The hotel is elegantly captured in Thomas Graham’s The Magnificent Hotel Ponce de Leon.

George W. Seavey was a floral still-life painter of considerable talent and dash. He specialized in bright and colorful renditions of flowers often shipped from the North to Flagler’s hotels via his railroads. At the Ponce de Leon, while Seavey painted roses, violets, peonies and pansies, he specialized in renditions of chrysanthemums, a species of perennial flowering plants from the family Asteraceae, that were natives of Asia and northeastern Europe.

Whether Seavey was capitalizing on the Flagler’s love of this Chinese and Japanese Imperial flower and its association with wealth and power, or the commonly held 19th Century belief that the chrysanthemum helped clean the system when drunk as tea, and rid the air of pollutants as it helped repel insects, Seavey painted these colorful and vibrant blooms hundreds of times while in residence at the Ponce. His style of relaxed colorful realism made these flower paintings popular, but expensive, tourist souvenirs as they were carried throughout the United States by departing guests.

Written and submitted by Gary R. Libby from an essay in his book Reflections: Paintings of Florida 1835-2000

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About  George Washington Seavey

Born:  1841
Died:   1913
Known for:  bright, colorful, and large floral still life painting