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 Albert Herter  (1871 - 1950)

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Lived/Active: California/New York / France      Known for: decorative art, portrait, figure-allegory and still life painting, textiles

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Ad Code: 2
Albert Herter
from Auction House Records.
The Bouvier Twins
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Albert Herter is best remembered in East Hampton, New York for two reasons: as the original owner of the Creeks, the extravagant 60-acre estate on Georgica Pond, later the home of the painter Alfonso Ossorio and the dancer Ted Dragon and now owned by Ronald Perelman; and as the father of Christian Herter, Dwight D. Eisenhower's second Secretary of State.  Some might say he should be better known as an artist, for before his death in 1950, he was celebrated for his historical murals.

But time has not been kind to the Maxfield Parrish or N.C. Wyeth style that to some extent Albert Herter often emulated, probably because these painters are thought of as mere illustrators rather than true artists.  Time has its benign side as well, for nostalgia seems to envelop everything remotely interesting from the past these days, and Albert Herter is no exception.

In a new, slim volume of stories, A Dubious Lineage, the Herter family has for the first time published some reminiscences Mr. Herter wrote of his childhood and marriage and about painting, including a family genealogy as well as a beautifully written postface by Patsy Southgate.

An Artistic Family:
While the publication of these stories is not a major literary event, they do have a certain charm, especially for East Hamptoners who have an interest in the town's cultural history. Albert Herter was the son of Christian Herter, an important interior designer and cabinetmaker whose elaborate work can still be seen in the Morgan Library and the Metropolitan Museum.  Mr. Herter, born in 1871, grew up in a home devoted to the arts.  Although his father was an extremely successful furniture designer, his secret ambition was to become a painter, and 10 years after his son's birth, he gave up his career in New York, where he was known as "society's darling as well as its decorator," to move to Paris to study painting.  A year later, Christian Herter died of tuberculosis.

Two Murals:
It was left to the son to carry out his father's dream and this he did, first by enrolling as a student at the Art Students' League and then later continuing his work in Paris, studying with J. P. Laurens.  As a student in Paris, Mr. Herter met Adele McGinnis, the daughter of a prominent banker, whom he married soon after.  They traveled to Japan for their honeymoon where they spent much of their time painting.  The life they had settled on for themselves, to become artists, was possible because of sizable inheritances from both their families.  The Herters were therefore able to devote their time to their work and soon, Mr. Herter became known as an important artist.

His two most famous works were both murals.  One, dedicated to the memory of his son who was killed during World War I, was painted for the Gare de l'Est in Paris. The second, inspired by his second son, Christian, later the Governor of Massachusetts and Secretary of State, hangs in the House of Representatives in Boston.

Sophisticated Travelers:
He also formed a company to design and manufacture tapestries, upholstery and curtains; as a result, Mr. Herter became both an artistic and a financial success. Much of the money he earned and inherited went into building the Creeks, designing its extensive gardens, installing many extravagances like a Venetian gondola on the pond, and generally leading life on a grand scale. The Herters were a sophisticated couple, traveling as widely as one could in the days before jet airplanes.  They lived in California much of the time, but came back most summers to East Hampton.

When Adele Herter died in 1946, Mr. Herter moved to the Algonquin Hotel, but continued to spend his winters in Santa Barbara and summers out east.  The commentary accompanying the stories suggests that his last years were spent with his companion Willy Stevens, who was responsible for saving the texts that have now finally been published.

Excerpted from a review by Richard Dunn of the book, Herter, A Dubious Lineage, organized by his family:

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
A portrait and still life painter who early lived and worked in East Hampton, New York, and later in California, Albert Herter was also a muralist and weaver.  Many of his portrait subjects were prominent families of the East Hampton area, and his murals are at the Massachusetts State House, theaters in New York and Hollywood, and the St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco.

Born in 1871 in New York City, Herter expressed an interest in art at a young age.  He studied first under James Carroll Beckwith at the Art Students League in New York, then went on to Paris to further develop his style. In 1890, he exhibited at the Paris Salon.

When Herter returned to the United States he taught at the Art Institute of Chicago during the late 1890's.  Following in the footsteps of his father, who helped found a prominent interior design firm, Albert himself was became head of Herter Looms which manufactured elegant fabrics and tapestries in New York.

He and his wife, Adele McGinnis, eventually bought a home in Santa Barbara, California and divided their time between Long Island and California.  Herter was most well known for his murals and portraits.  His murals can be seen in California at the Los Angeles Public Library and in the St. Francis Hotel dining room in San Francisco.  He died in 1950 in Santa Barbara, California.

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in NYC on March 2, 1871, Herter studied art with Carroll Beckwith at the ASL in NYC and with Laurens and Cormon in Paris.  After returning from Paris, he taught at the AIC (1896) and was the head of Herter Looms in New York which manufactured hand woven textiles and tapestries.  He and his wife, Adele, had homes on Long Island and in Santa Barbara, CA.

Although he did illustrations and designed posters, his main concern was murals.  During the later part of his career he painted portraits at his Santa Barbara home at 114 Chapella Street until his death on Feb. 15, 1950. 

Member: ANA (1906); American WC Society; NY WC Club; Society of Mural Painters; Century Ass'n.

Exh: Paris Salon, 1890; Atlanta Expo, 1895 (medal); PAFA, 1897 (prize); Nashville Expo, 1897; American WC Society, 1899 (prize); Paris Expo, 1900 (bronze medal); Pan-American Expo (Buffalo), 1901 (silver medal); Calif. State Fair, 1926 (1st prize); Stendahl Gallery (LA), 1927.

In: St Francis Hotel Dining Room (SF); Los Angeles and Santa Barbara Public Libraries; Brooklyn Museum.

Edan Hughes, Artists in California, 1786-1940
Edan Hughes, "Artists in California, 1786-1940"
Dictionnaire des Peintres, Sculpteurs, Dessinateurs, et Graveurs (Bénézit, E); Southern California Artists (Nancy Moure); American Art Annual 1925-29; Who's Who in American Art 1936-47; Santa Barbara News Press, 2-15-1950 & NY Times, 2-16-1950 (obits).
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.

Biography from American Illustrators Gallery:
Albert Herter was born into the famous Herter family of craftsmen and artists of great note.  The son of Christian Augustus Herter, one of the two renowned Herter Brothers, noted cabinetmakers to Gilded Age millionaires and amongst the first interior designers in the nation.  Herter Brothers took on assignments to create whole spaces in a residential structure entirely of their own-making, and conception, in styles derived or invented that were heretofore, unparalleled in quality of execution and design.

Being brought up in such a family, which was widely recognized as tastemakers, his sensitivities to lofty and ethereal objects and to the practical side of crafts and the fine arts, was not at all surprising. His father enrolled Albert in the Art Students League and later arranged for him to study in Paris at the Academie Julian.  It was in Paris under the legendary J. P. Laurens, a great Royal Academician, that inspired Albert most and certified his interest in painting as his future sole endeavor.

When Herter returned from Paris, he taught at the Chicago Art Institute and sought commissions in illustration, a new profession mixing art and historic subjects.  His work enabled Albert Herter to win the Evans Prize from the American Water Color Society in 1899, a medal at the Paris Exposition in 1900, and to exhibit at the Pan American Exposition in 1901.  His style as an illustrator was sometimes compared to that of Maxfield Parrish combined with NC Wyeth.  He often professed to emulate those two great illustrators.  For this reason, it is interesting to note that in 1913, The Century Company published a book entitled, Romantic America, which used Maxfield Parrish's painting, The Grand Canyon of the Colorado, as the frontispiece.  The book, with approximately 80 illustrations, included paintings by Joseph Pennell, George Inness, Jr., Winslow Homer, and Albert Herter (San Gabriel, San Diego, San Luis Rey, and San Juan Capistrano).  Herter and Parrish were published in a book purporting to be an impossible "substitute for the look and feel, the sound and human atmosphere of Romantic America."

A book and magazine illustrator and muralist, Herter gained a degree of additional fame as a portrait artist of New York society's family heads as well as Russian noblemen.  His murals hang in the state capitals of Connecticut, Wisconsin and Massachusetts, as well as in the Academy of Science in Washington, D.C., and banks and hotels across the USA.  Having lost a son in World War I, Albert Herter painted a majestic mural in his memory, which hangs in the Gare de l¹Est in Paris.  His second son, Christian Herter was Secretary of State under President Dwight D. Eisenhower and Governor of Massachusetts.

His father appointed Albert head of Herter Looms, a textile, curtain, upholstery, and tapestry company based in New York City, catering to the wealthiest families of New York.  He successfully ran this business while carrying on with his career as an illustrator.  Herter and his wife Adele bought a home in Santa Barbara, California, traveled in Europe and lived during the summer months in East Hampton.  Almost all of his inherited and earned wealth went into the enhancements of his beloved estate in East Hampton, Long Island, "The Creeks".  He designed its lavish gardens with ponds cruised by a Venetian gondola, and added parterres, boxwood hedges, and a profuse assortment of flowers. 

He died in Santa Barbara in 1950.

Biography from Turak Gallery of American Art:
ALBERT HERTER (American 1871-1950)

Exhibited: Sendecor Gallery, Albert Herter, New York, 1912

Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Tales of the Enchanted Islands of the Atlantic, New York, 1923 - reproduced. Albert Herter, The Gift of Eternal Life, 1929 - reproduced.

The Garden of the Hesperides, shows the three nymphs, daughters of the west wind, Hesperus, who guard the golden apples of Hera and Zeus on the Isle of the Blest.  The apples are the food of the gods; they bring those who eat them love, fertility, and forgetfulness.  The golden apple tree and the garden surrounding it are located facing west on an island in the Atlantic, which explains an alternate name for the nymphs, Atlantides.  The dragon Ladon shares guardianship with the Hesperides, or he shared it until he fell under the sword of Hercules whose eleventh labor was to kill the dragon and carry off the golden fruit.

One of a number of mythologies conceived by Albert Herter in the 1890's and early 1900's, The Garden of the Hesperides, may be the artist's most important work. Stylistically related to the last flowering of American Pre-Raphaelite and American Renaissance painting, the work possesses a balance of elements and serenity of mood rarely found in the work of his contemporaries. Unlike his portraits and decorative programs, The Garden of the Hesperides was painted as an independent work of art.  It remained in Herter's collection until his death in 1950.

Biography from William A. Karges Fine Art - Carmel:
Albert Herter was born in New York in 1871, where he studied at the Art Students League before leaving for Paris for further instruction.  Upon his return to the states, Herter moved to Chicago, teaching at the Art Institute.

Herter is best known for his delicate mixed-media portraits, which often featured women from the wealthy families of New York.  He also headed the Herter Looms, a firm specializing in elegant textiles and tapestries.

A successful artist and businessman, Herter divided his time between Long Island and Santa Barbara, California, where he died in 1950.

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Albert Herter is also mentioned in these AskART essays:
California Painters

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