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 Ammi Merchant Farnham  (1845 - 1922)

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Lived/Active: California      Known for: landscape, portrait, figure-genre

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Ad Code: 3
AskART Artist
Landscape, 20" X 16"
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The following is from the website of the San Diego Historical Society,

Ammi Merchant Farnham (1846-1922)

Ammi Farnham was born in Silver Creek, New York, January 13, 1846. He was San Diego's first important artist of national stature. A precocious talent, he began his artistic career at the age of twelve. At eighteen he was a student in Munich and was traveling in Italy and France. As a student of Frank Duveneck at the Royal Academy of Bavaria, his colleagues were William Merritt Chase, Frank Freer and other familiar names in the annals of American art history.

His paintings manifest the artistic theories of the German art centers of the 19th Century. Back home, the artist served as curator of the Buffalo Academy of Fine Arts for several years. As a professional painter, he exhibited in New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and other major United States cities. He settled in San Diego, where he died thirty-four years later.

The appearance of this artist, in the late 19th Century, in Southern California is significant in that it signaled the beginning of an era of quality work produced by artists who were familiar with international currents in the visual arts through both training and travel. Today contemporary criticism is directed at their academicism. However, academy attendance, plus absorption of European culture through travel, were part of the curriculum vita expected of any serious artist.

A major retrospective exhibition and memorial tribute occurred during the year of the artist's death in 1922. Eighty oil paintings, a large selection of watercolors, and about fifty etchings by Ammi Merchant Farnham were shown during November at Orr's Art Gallery, San Diego.

[by Martin E. Petersen, Curator of Western Arts at the Fine Arts Gallery of San Diego.]

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in Silver Creek, NY on Jan. 13, 1845. Farnham began his art career at age 12. At 18 he studied at the Munich Academy under Frank Duveneck and at the Royal Academy of Bavaria. Back home, he was curator of the Buffalo Academy of Fine Arts for many years. He was active in San Francisco before settling in San Diego, CA about 1889. He continued his ties to Buffalo and often stopped there en route to Europe. In 1915 the San Diego Art Guild was formed with Farnham as its first president. He continued to paint until shortly before his death in San Diego on July 20, 1922. His oeuvre includes portraits, figures, and landscapes in oil and watercolor. His atmospheric landscapes were often painted in late afternoon and depict luminous twilights with a rising moon. Exh: Mechanics' Inst. (SF), 1884; SFAA, 1884, 1889; Ruskin Art Club (LA), 1902; Albert-Knox Gallery (Buffalo), 1914; Panama-Calif. Int'l Expo (San Diego), 1915 (silver medal); Calif.-Pacific Int'l Expo (San Diego), 1935. In: San Diego Museum; Buffalo Historical Society; Buffalo Club (New Windsor, NY).
Edan Hughes, "Artists in California, 1786-1940"
San Diego Historical Society; Plein Air Painters (Ruth Westphal).
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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