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 John Rowson Smith  (1810 - 1864)

About: John Rowson Smith
 

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Lived/Active: Pennsylvania/New Jersey/Massachusetts      Known for: town-view, landscape, panorama-scene

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J. "R., Jr." Smith is primarily known as John Rowson Smith

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John Rowson Smith
from Auction House Records.
Figures by a Stream
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in Boston, Massachusetts, John Rowson Smith spent most of his childhood in Brooklyn, New York, and became a landscape painter whose primary activity was creating theater scenery and panoramas. He was the first noted American creator of moving panoramas and began his panoramic career with scenes of Boston and then of a big fire in Moscow. Very little of his work survives today.

His subjects were generally American landscapes, and because he exhibited widely in Europe as well as the United States, it was said that he brought the New World to the Old World.

He worked all over the United States including theatres in New Orleans where in 1835 he worked with Antoine Mondelli at the St.Charles Theatre, and from 1840 to 1841, as a scene painter at the American Theatre. He also visited the city in 1837 and did drawings of New Orleans that he subsequently used in his panorama. By 1844, he had completed a Mississippi River panorama that was widely exhibited in the United States and Europe and credited with stimulating immigration to the Mississippi Valley. This work depicted nearly 4000 miles of American scenery, from the falls of St. Anthony in Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico. It was painted on over four miles of canvas and earned him great amounts of money when it was exhibited including $20,000. at Saratoga, New York in a six-weeks long show. In 1847, he visited Fort Snelling in Minnesota and also toured Europe with his panorama. Meanwhile he did a panorama in Europe to be shown to Americans.

His style of landscape painting is both realistic and romantic and is related to the 17th-century school of Romantic painting of the Frenchman, Claude Lorraine. Smith moved to Philadelphia in 1830 and received his artistic training from his father, John Rubens Smith, a portrait, miniature, and topographical artist who had immigrated to the United States in 1809.

He spent his later years in Carlstadt, New Jersey, living on a farm, but he continued to paint panoramas for New York City theatres and ones in the South. When the Civil War broke out several years before his death, he returned to the North from Mobile, Alabama, where he was working, via ship from the port of New Orleans.


Source:
Peggy and Harold Samuels, "The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Artists of the American West"
John Mahe, "Encyclopedia of New Orleans Artists, 1718-1918"

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