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 Charles Atherton Cumming  (1858 - 1932)

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Lived/Active: Iowa/California/Illinois      Known for: portrait, landscape, figure, mural

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Ad Code: 4
Charles Atherton Cumming
from Auction House Records.
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in Rochester, Illinois to parents of French and Scottish descent, Charles Cumming became a leading painter in Iowa and also a key figure in establishing art related studies. He studied briefly at Reading College Academy in Abingdon, Illinois, and then enrolled at Cornell College in Mount Vernon, Iowa. His talent was evident, and he was encouraged to attend the Art Institute of Chicago and there studied with Lawrence C. Earle. In 1880, he returned to Cornell College and began an art teaching affiliation at a time when Iowa was very much a pioneering state and little art education was available. He was not officially on the faculty, but rented a basement room for a studio and gave private lessons to interested students.

In 1885, he went to Paris and studied at the Academie Julian with Boulanger and Lefebvre and painted landscapes in the countryside. Seeing much drunkenness, he became a life-long champion of abstinence. Returning to Iowa, he conducted weekly classes at Cedar Rapids and Iowa City, and in 1895, moved to Des Moines at the invitation of the Iowa Society of Fine Artists and the Des Moines Women's Club. He became the Director of the Des Moines Academy of Art and in 1900, he opened in the newly built public library the Cumming School of Art, which became widely recognized for serious art study. After his death, his widow, Alice McKee Cumming continued to operate the school until it closed in 1954.

Cumming also became a key person in developing the art program at the University of Iowa, where he established the faculty and faculty studios. He was widely active in central Iowa art programs and painted public murals depicting Iowa history. Throughout all of this activity, he continued to do his own painting, which were landscapes and portraits of historical personages. He remained a staunch academic, seemingly uninfluenced by modernist, abstract art.

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in Rochester, IL on March 31, 1858. Cumming studied at the AIC, NAD, and with Boulanger, Lefebvre, and Constant at Académie Julian in Paris. He was a resident of Des Moines, IA where he was director of the Cumming School of Art from 1895 until 1927. For health reasons, he then moved to San Diego for a four-year stay. Returning in November, he died in Des Moines on Feb. 16, 1932. Member: Iowa Art Guild (founder 1914). Exh: Cornell College, 1972, Iowa State University, 1973 and Iowa Historical Society, 1997 (retrospectives). In: Polk Co. Court House (Des Moines); Des Moines Public Library; Iowa Historical Gallery (Des Moines).
Edan Hughes, "Artists in California, 1786-1940"
American Art Annual 1929; Dictionary of American Painters, Sculptors & Engravers (Fielding, Mantle); Artists of the American West (Doris Dawdy); Southern California Artists (Nancy Moure); IAmerican Art Review, April 1997.
Nearly 20,000 biographies can be found in Artists in California 1786-1940 by Edan Hughes and is available for sale ($150). For a full book description and order information please click here.

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