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 Harry Fenn  (1837 - 1911)

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Lived/Active: New Jersey/New York      Known for: book illustration, sea-landscape painting, engraving

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Ad Code: 3
Harry Fenn
from Auction House Records.
A Silvery Morning on the Coast of Maine
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
An illustrator for William Cullen Bryant's book Picturesque America and a painter associated with the Hudson River School of painting, Harry Fenn was born in England. He trained as a wood engraver before becoming a painter.  One of his strengths was his ability to capture highly detailed topographical scenes, and much of his work was intended for reproduction.

He arrived in the United States in the mid 1860s purportedly to see Niagara Falls.  He stayed for six years, went to Italy for art study, and then returned to illustrate his first book, Snow Bound by John Greenleaf Whittier.  A second book illustration followed, Ballads of New England.  These publications were the "first illustrated gift books produced in this country, and they marked an era in the history of book making." (Falk 1104).

In 1870, Harry Fenn traveled extensively in the United States including to California for the project, Picturesque America.  In 1873, he went to Europe and the Orient for subsequent book illustration projects, Picturesque Europe and Picturesque Palestine, Sinai and Egypt.  These books brought him fame.  In the early 1900s, he went to New Orleans to do color illustrations for My Winter Garden by Maurice Thompson.

In the United States, Harry Fenn had a studio in New York City and lived in Montclair, New Jersey.  He was a founder of the American Watercolor Society, the Salmagundi Club and the Society of Illustrators.  He exhibited in New York at the National Academy of Design and the American Water Color Society.  Other exhibition venues included the Boston Art Club, the Brooklyn Art Association, and the New Orleans Art Association.

One of his well known paintings is View of the Colt Residence, home of the famous arms manufacturer, Samuel Colt.  Palisades, Hudson River is one of the paintings that groups him among the Hudson River School painters.  It is a view of the lower Hudson along the shores of New Jersey and depicts the steep perpendicular walls of trap rock and fissures of the Palisades.

Peter Falk, Who Was Who in American Art
John Howat, The Hudson River and Its Painters
Edan Hughes, Artists in California, 1786-1940

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Harry Fenn was born in Surrey, England on Sept. 14, 1845.  "Harry" Fenn was trained as a wood engraver before coming to the U.S. in 1864.  After studying art in Italy, he was sought after as a book illustrator and traveled widely in Europe and the U.S.  His watercolors of California are featured in Picturesque America  (1872), Picturesque California  (1888), and Century Magazine (1891).  Fenn was a founder of the American WC Society, Society of Illustrators, and Salmagundi Club.  He maintained a studio in NYC and a home in Montclair, NJ where he died on April 21, 1911.

Works Held:  Oakland Museum; Orange Co. (CA) Museum; California Historical Society; Bancroft Library (UC Berkeley). 

Note: From: Sue Rainey:  "I have written the first study of Fenn's whole career, Creating a World on Paper: Harry Fenn's Career in Art, published by the University of Massachusetts Press, 2013. The book won the Newman Award of the American Historical Print Collectors Society in 2014.
Fenn was born in 1837, not 1845.

Edan Hughes, "Artists in California, 1786-1940"
Bénézit; Fielding's Dictionary of American Painters & Sculptors;  NY Times, 4-23-1911 (obit).
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.

** If you discover credit omissions or have additional information to add, please let us know at

Harry Fenn is also mentioned in these AskART essays:
Hudson River School Painters

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