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Joseph Rodefer DeCamp

 (1858 - 1923)
Joseph Rodefer DeCamp was active/lived in Maine, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Florida, Ohio.  Joseph DeCamp is known for figure, portrait, landscape and marine painting.

Joseph Rodefer DeCamp

Biography from the Archives of askART

Biography photo for Joseph Rodefer DeCamp
Joseph Rodefer DeCamp, a native of Boston, was known for his figure paintings of women in interiors and in nude poses, portraits and some landscapes. His work reflected both realism and impressionism, and as an evolving impressionist he was one of the "The Ten", a group of ten American painters whose members with avant-garde ideas about painting styles and exhibitions rebelled against the more staid Society of American Artists. It is said that after his affiliation with The Ten and especially after spending time in Gloucester, summer of 1900, with Frank Duveneck and John Twachtman, De Camp became much more committed to Impressionism.

In 1875, at the age of seventeen, Joseph De Camp began his art career by studying in Munich under Frank Duveneck. The Dutch Masters, whose work he saw in Holland, especially that of Jan Vermeer, influenced many of his future paintings, most often female figures near a window, bathed in the light from the exterior.

He returned to Boston in 1880, and established a career as a teacher and portrait painter. De Camp had been a prominent member of The Boston School of painting, which focused in realistic style primarily on figural subjects of beauty, elegance and refinement. A De Camp portrait in this style and one of particular significance is that of Theodore Roosevelt, which he painted for Roosevelt's Harvard classmates. Even this formal portrait shows the influence of Vermeer in the broad expanse of wall and the use of atmospheric light which serves as a backdrop to silhouette Roosevelt.

Because portrait painting was his focus, only relatively few landscapes by De Camp are found. However, this circumstance likely is affected by the studio fires that occurred in Boston in the Harcourt Building in 1904, where hundreds of paintings were destroyed.

De Camp also was an art educator with a long-time teaching assignment at the Massachusetts Normal Art School in Boston. Other teaching assignments were the Boston Museum School of Fine Art and the Pennsylvania Academy.

Sources include:
Peter Falk, "Who Was Who in American Art"
William Gerdts, "American Impressionism"

Biography from Hollis Taggart Galleries

Joseph DeCamp (1858-1923)

Born in Cincinnati, Ohio on November 5, 1858, Joseph DeCamp began his artistic career in his teens and remained active throughout his life. Although he initially painted landscapes, Decamp became a renowned and respected portraitist. He was famous for his images of men of high society and women within domestic interiors.

Decamp began his artistic training in 1873 when he enrolled in the McMicken School of Art and Design in Cincinnati.  The head of the school, Thomas Satterwhite Noble, was a European-trained painter whose "insistence on rigorous draftsmanship, true to the academic manner in which he had been trained, exerted a lasting influence on DeCamp."(1) DeCamp studied under Noble for five years, but was also a student of Frank Duveneck at the Ohio Mechanics Institute.  He adopted Duveneck's bold, realistic style and many of his paintings executed throughout the 1870s and 1880s reflect this influence. 

Like most American artists of his generation, DeCamp went abroad to study.  In 1878, following in the footsteps of Duveneck and other Midwesterners, he traveled to Munich to attend the Royal Bavarian Academy. Soon after his arrival, however, he gravitated away from the academy and towards Duveneck and eventually followed his mentor to Florence and Venice. During these years, DeCamp focused on landscape and portraiture as his primary subjects. These themes would continue to occupy the artist when he returned to America in 1883. 

When DeCamp arrived back in the United States in 1883, he first settled in Cincinnati, but soon moved to Cleveland to teach at what is now Case Western Reserve University. He then relocated once more to the Boston area, where he would remain for most of his life.  DeCamp began teaching at Wellesley Female Academy and, in the fall of 1885, began as an instructor at the School of Drawing and Painting at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.  He quickly established himself as one of the leading figures in the Boston art community and became a founding member of The Ten American Painters, formulated in 1897. This group included Childe Hassam, John Henry Twachtman, Julian Alden Weir, Frank Benson, Thomas Dewing, Willard Metcalf, Robert Reid, Edward Simmons, Edmund Tarbell, and William Merritt Chase.  These artists were dedicated to experimentation with various styles, particularly impressionism. They also wanted more opportunity for exhibitions outside the established venues. Many, including DeCamp, had joined the Society of American Artists (SAA) when this group broke from the conservative National Academy of Design in 1877. However, The Ten American Painters felt that the SAA had itself become too restrictive.  Banding together, The Ten exhibited their works as a group between 1898 and 1919.  Unfortunately, many of his works were destroyed in fires at both his Boston and Maine studios.  

Like most painters of his time, DeCamp usually left the bustle of the urban environment during the summer months and sketched and painted outdoors. According to DeCamp biographer Laurene Buckley, the artist "returned to landscape as a subject, especially in 1886, after he had spent the first of many summers at Annisquam on the Massachusetts coast, near Gloucester."(2) Painters such as Hugh Bolton Jones, William Lamb Picknell, and others who had worked at the Pont-Aven art colony in Brittany frequented the thriving art community that developed in Annisquam. Many of these artists, including DeCamp, worked en plein air.  This technique of sketching outdoors was wholeheartedly endorsed by William Morris Hunt, the leading Boston landscapist of the day.

While DeCamp painted and exhibited landscapes, he is best known for his portraits and for his scenes of women at leisure. His paintings of women in the first decade of twentieth century exhibit the influence of Jan Vermeer.  His last work The Blue Mandarin Coat (The Blue Kimono), 1922 displayed the vogue for Japanese textiles and porcelain  (japonisme) at the turn of the century in Boston.  When DeCamp died on February 11, 1923 a memorial wreath was placed beneath the work, which was then in the annual show at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.

1  Laurene Buckley, Joseph De Camp: Master Painter of the Boston School (Munich and New York: Prestel, 1995): 10
2. Buckley, Joseph DeCamp, 33.

Biography from Pierce Galleries, Inc.
Joseph Rodefer DeCamp (American, 1858-1923):

Joseph DeCamp is considered one of American's preeminent portrait painters. He was a member of The Ten American Painters (1898) with Hassam, Tarbell, Benson, Dewing, Reid, Metcalf, Hassam, Weir, Twachtman (and Chase, who took Twachtman's place in 1902). DeCamp was considered a Tarbellite and a leading member of The Boston School of Painting.

DeCamp was born and raised in the Cincinnati area and became a lifelong friend and admirer of Frank Duveneck. With Duveneck he traveled throughout Europe and met most of influential artists of the 19th-century (including Whistler, Sargent and Monet). Studying under Duveneck at the Munich Academy, DeCamp gained a high respect for academically accurate drawing combined with fluent brushwork.

DeCamp's work is in permanent collections throughout the world, including the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Metropolitan Museum of Art; Worcester Museum; PAFA; Cummer Museum, Jacksonville, FL; Harvard University Portrait Collection (President Theodore Roosevelt); Cincinnati Art Museum; and elsewhere.

Throughout DeCamp's career he was plagued with sickness and misfortune. In 1904 a studio fire at the Fenway Studios, Boston, and another fire in his Maine studio, destroyed most of his life work. There are no more than 94 known canvases by Joseph DeCamp but collectors who want examples by The Ten American Painters want to own his work. Unfortunately, there are not enough to go around. DeCamp is best known for his Eakin-like portraits in which dark plays against light tonalities and people's characters are understood. He died in Boca Grande, Florida in 1923.

P.J. Pierce

Biography from Altermann Galleries and Auctioneers, IV
Joseph Rodefer DeCamp (November 5, 1858 - February 11, 1923)

Born in Cincinnati, Ohio where he studied with Frank Duveneck. In the second half of the 1870s he went with Duveneck and fellow students to the Royal Academy of Munich. He then spent time in Florence, Italy, returning to Boston in 1883.

DeCamp became known as a member of the Boston school led by Edmund Charles Tarbell and Emil Otto Grundmann, focusing on figure painting, and in the 1890s adopting the style of Tonalism. He was a founder of the Ten American Painters, a group of American Impressionists, in 1897.

A 1904 fire in his Boston studio destroyed several hundred of his early paintings, including nearly all of his landscapes.

He died in Boca Grande, Florida.


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About  Joseph Rodefer DeCamp

Born:  1858 - Cincinnati, Ohio
Died:   1923 - Boca Grande, Florida
Known for:  figure, portrait, landscape and marine painting