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 Henry Prellwitz  (1865 - 1940)

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Lived/Active: New York/New Hampshire/Rhode Island      Known for: allegorical figure and landscapes painting, teaching

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in New York City, Henry Prellwitz had a painting career that ranged from allegorical and narrative and genre works to landscapes much influenced by the poetic qualities of Tonalism.  For many years, he taught at the Pratt Institute in New York, and was elected to prestigious organizations including the National Academy of Design and the Society of American Artists.

Prellwitz grew up in New York City as one of five sons of Prussian parents.  His father owned a cigar store.  At age fourteen, he enrolled in the City College of New York and there was introduced to art by Leigh Hunt, who was teaching shading and perspective.  Three years later he began study at the Art Students League, where his instructors were Thomas Dewing, Robert Reid and George de Forest Brush.  Dewing had the most lasting influence, and later the two became personal friends.  In 1893, he won the Third Hallgarten Prize at the National Academy in New York, and many other awards and international exhibitions followed.

From 1887 to 1890, Prellwitz lived in Europe, where he studied in Paris at the Academy Julian and stayed at the Anglo-American colony at Giverny, home of Impressionist leader Claude Monet.  He also went to Spain with Philip Leslie Hale and William Howard Hart. 

In 1884, he married Edith Mitchill, a painter whom he had met at the Art Students League and who had a studio near his at the Holbein Building in New York City.  They had a life-long marriage with both husband and wife becoming highly successful art professionals.

In 1895, the couple built a cottage in Cornish, New Hampshire in order to join their good friends the Dewings and sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens.  The Prellwitz place, known as the "Shanty", was destroyed by fire three years later, and the owners did not rebuild.  Instead, drawn to the picturesque, bucolic scenery and quiet marine views of the North Fork of Long Island, they moved to the small village of Peconic in the summer of 1899.  They were joined by some of their artist friends such as Irving Wiles and August Bell, and became part of the core of the Peconic Art Colony.  They became full-time residents in 1913, having purchased and moved an early 19th-century home to a promontory of Peconic Bay.  They added two studios, and focusing on specific sites, he used the Long Island area and the essence of it as the primary basis for painting.

Prellwitz's work of this period involved exploration of changing and transitory images of light, weather and season.  It was a turning away from his earlier narrative studio painting to paintings with Tonalist qualities, many of them nocturnes, intended to lead the viewer into a realm of imagination and contemplation..

In 1928, Henry Prellwitz and his wife returned to New York City where they became city dwellers.  He died in East Greenwich, Rhode Island in 1940, and his wife died four years later.

Sources include:
Ronald Pisano, "Henry & Edith Mitchell Prellwitz and the Peconic Art Colony" American Art Review. Vol. VII, No. 4, 1995.
Lisa N. Peters, "Henry Prellwitz", The Poetic Vision: American Tonalism

Biography from Spanierman Gallery:
Henry Prellwitz spent much of his career in New York City, where he was active as a landscape and figure painter as well as a teacher and art administrator. At various times during his career, Prellwitz was affiliated with artists colonies in Giverny, France, and in Cornish, New Hampshire. He also lived and worked in Peconic, Long Island for many years.

Prellwitz was born in New York City in 1865. After attending New York's City College from 1879 until 1882, he went on to study at the Art Students League, working under Thomas W. Dewing until 1887.

In the autumn of 1887 Henry Prellwitz went to Paris, attending classes at the Académie Julian under Jean-Paul Laurens from 1887 until 1889. In May of 1889, he spent a few days in Giverny, the Anglo-American art colony located on the Seine about forty miles northwest of Paris. He returned to Giverny in late June, remaining there for about two months, and made subsequent visits in late September and late December, accompanied on both occasions by his friend and fellow artists, William Howard Hart and William Rothenstein. He made a final trip to Giverny in May 1890. Although Prellwitz is known to have painted en plein air during these visits, experimenting with the tenets of Impressionism, none of his Giverny work has surfaced. In the autumn of 1889, Prellwitz is known to have visited Spain, along with Hart and the Boston-born painter, Philip Leslie Hale.

Henry Prellwitz established his studio in New York City in the summer or fall of 1890. In October of 1894, he married the painter Edith Mitchill (1865-1944). During that same year, he was appointed director of the Art Students League, an important administrative position that he retained until 1898. Prellwitz also taught classes at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn.

In 1891, Henry Prellwitz began spending his summers in Cornish, New Hampshire, a popular gathering place for painters and sculptors from Manhattan, including his former teacher, Thomas W. Dewing, and his friend, William Howard Hart. In 1895, he built a small cottage there, dubbed "Prellwitz's Shanty," not far from the homes of Dewing and the sculptor, Augustus Saint-Gaudens. Prellwitz subsequently painted a number of Cornish landscapes, including many views of Mount Ascutney.

After its destruction by fire in 1898, Henry Prellwitz and his wife rented a summer house in Peconic, Long Island, where they joined many of their artist friends such as Irving Wiles and Edward August Bell. A year later, they bought a house in Peconic which they eventually converted into a studio. In 1911 Prellwitz purchased an early nineteenth century house which he then had transported to land he purchased on Indian Neck, a promitory jutting into Peconic Bay. Three years later, after adding two studios to the house, Prellwitz and his wife became year-round residents of Long Island. Prellwitz subsequently became one of the few artists to depict Long Island during the winter. After 1928, Prellwitz and his wife lived in an apartment in a Turtle Bay cooperative on East 41st Street.

Henry Prellwitz played a lively role in New York art life at the turn of the century, exhibiting his paintings at the Society of American Artists and at the National Academy of Design. He won numerous awards and prizes, including the National Academy's Third Hallgarten prize (1893) and its Clarke prize (1907). He also received a bronze medal at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo (1901) and a silver medal at the St. Louis Exposition (1904). Prellwitz was elected an associate of the National Academy in 1906 and an academician in 1912. As the Academy's treasurer from 1929 until 1940, Prellwitz was praised for his "fidelity to duty" and his "firmness in the conviction of right ... tempered with kindness, justice and respect for the feelings of others." Prellwitz was also affiliated with the Century Club, the Salmagundi Club and the American Federation of Arts.

Henry Prellwitz died in East Greenwich, Rhode Island in 1940. His paintings are represented in numerous public collections throughout the northeast, including the National Academy of Design in New York City and the Heckscher Museum in Huntington, New York.

CL

©The essay herein is the property of Spanierman Gallery and is copyrighted by Spanierman Gallery and may not be reproduced in whole or in part, without written permission from Spanierman Gallery nor shown or communicated to anyone without due credit being given to Spanierman Gallery.

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Arthur Prellwitz is also mentioned in these AskART essays:
Cornish Colony
Tonalism

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