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 Seth Corbett Jones  (1853 - 1929)

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Lived/Active: New York/California      Known for: sheep in landscape painting, survey artist

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Seth Corbett Jones
An example of work by Seth Corbett Jones
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The following biography, submitted September 2000, is from Connie Houtz, great grand daughter of the artist:

Seth Corbett Jones was my great-grandfather, his surviving child, Mary, being my grandmother. The attached information is from my biographical sketches of family:

He was born on July 15, 1853 in Rochester, New York, and died on August 1, 1929 in Rochester, New York, where he is buried in Mount Hope Cemetery.  His parents were Henry Jones and Francis Mathilda Hayden, and siblings were Francis Henry Jones and George Henry Jones.

Seth or "Corby" as he was known to friends and family when interviewed by a reporter for a Rochester, New York newspaper for a column of famous residents entitled "What I Am" (at that time he was Secretary to the Municipal Art Commission and a well known artist himself) related that as a youth he wanted to be a roamer in the wooded wilderness of faraway lands, passing time picturing on canvas his impressions of nature, but his parents had other views.

He further elaborated, " I was a boy when the Civil War was raging and I spent all my spare time drawing imaginary battle pictures. I wanted to be an artist and live in the wilds of the country.  My father, Henry Jones, chief engineer of the city waterworks here at that time, urged me to take a trade.  I reluctantly learned the moulding trade and then I studied marine engineering.  Finally I went as an artist and entomologist with the US Geological and Topographical Expedition to lay out the Yellowstone National Park and then into Mexico.  My life motto? Work all the harder when you are up against it.  Keep busy and you will avoid mischief.  Be square".

Seth was a well known artist in Rochester and secretary of the Municipal Art Commission.  Years before the Rochester Art Gallery was established, Seth along with George L. Herdle, who was former director of the Memorial Art Gallery, and Arthur W. Moore worked together for a museum of fine arts.  They established a nucleus in the Cutler building in Rochester and there collected fine pieces of statuary as well as pictures which were later moved to the Memorial Art Gallery.

For some time Seth was secretary and treasurer of the club and for many years he had charge of the art exhibit at the Rochester Exposition in Edgerton Park.  He was appointed secretary of the Municipal Art Commission soon after its formation. His office in the City Hall Annex was a miniature art gallery.  Although he first studied painting before the modern impressionistic school came in, he adopted it, even painting some works in the Glasgow School, both evidences of his progressive interest.

Seth painted many pictures on various subjects, but he was best known throughout America as a painter of sheep, a subject he had studied since boyhood.  He had a native sense of how to use colors and excelled in outdoor works and at one time had classes in the open.  He derived inspiration chiefly from nature.  A former pupil once said, "He interpreted Nature, he knew her moods; he was true to Nature.  A number of his paintings have been on exhibition throughout the country.  Combined with a kindly nature, he had a way of making outdoor sketching so interesting.  He enjoyed going out with local artists to Corbetts Glen.  He was the life of the party, had a sense of humor and was a good story teller".

Fish were a hobby with Seth Jones.  He took pride in a little aquarium he had in his office, bred fish and sometimes paying (in the 1880s and 90s) several dollars for a tiny one.

Another project that he took on was the refutation of the Barbara Frietchie flag waving incident commemorated in the John Greenleaf Whittier poem.  Based on his first-hand knowledge from his wife's southern family who were privy to the so-called real events, Seth Jones wrote a long letter to the local newspaper in 1924 refuting the alleged truth of this event.

Seth Jones was a member of the Hayden Expedition which explored the Southwest and covered much of the ground now in the national parks.  In that vicinity he became familiar with old Spanish scenes, remnants of the early Spanish occupation on the Pacific coast.  A painting of the famous Santa Barbara Mission hung at one time in the lobby of the Powers Hotel in Rochester.  He was versatile, painting portraits as well as nature scenes.  He studied with William B. Holmes and Thomas Moran.

In earlier years, Jones was much interested in photography.  At one time he traveled all over the United States for the Eastman Kodak Company (prior to 1892 known as the Eastman Dry Plate and Film Company).  His pictures included scenes he had preserved on canvas from many parts of the country.  He painted scenes in later life, sketched from the lake regions of Western New York.  As a young man he had done some illustrating.

Seth Jones married Clara Virginia Cole on 18 September 1879.  They were married by the Reverend Dr. Diehl, pastor of the Lutheran Church in Frederick, Maryland. Of his courtship of Clara, he writes,"I was assistant artist and entomologist with the United States Geographical and Topographical Survey of the Territories, of which my uncle, Dr. Ferdinand V. Hayden, was a director.  While in Washington in the early 1870's, I was invited to a reception at the home of General James A. Garfield, then representative in Congress from Ohio, and afterward President of the United States.  At this reception I met the two Misses Cole, Clara and Mary, daughters of Charles Edwin Cole, editor of the Maryland Union (Newspaper).  I fell in love with Clara Cole, and after the girls returned to their home in Frederick a correspondence sprang up between Clara and myself.  The result was that I went to Frederick frequently, and subsequently married Clara Cole.  "Sis" (Mary) was her sister's bridesmaid.

I never lived in Frederick but in the years that followed our marriage, I made many visits to it, and I believe I have painted and sketched about everything of interest in the place, including the Frietchie House.  I not only painted almost every possible view of it, but I have also photographed it".

Seth and Clara had two children, Mary and Charles.  "Charlie" died as a young man at the age of 19, and Clara died at age 37 after which Seth married Nellie Holloway.

A letter from the Historical Projects Section of the Eastman Kodak Company dated 21 January 1963 to Dr. J.V. Howell who was collecting data on F.V. Hayden who was Seth's uncle, documents that Seth was one of the first salesmen to work for the Eastman Dry Plate and Film Company.  In the period of 1885 to 1888, he traveled the country demonstrating the Eastman Roll Holder and Roll Film.  When the No 1 Kodak Camera was introduced in 1888, he also sold and demonstrated it.  He probably left Eastman around 1890.

These Notes from AskART represent the beginning of a possible future biography for this artist. Please click here if you wish to help in its development:
Born in Rochester, NY on July 15, 1853. Jones was a pupil of Thomas Moran and William Henry Holmes. His sketches of California missions, dated 1889, are in the Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley. He died in Rochester in 1930.
Edan Hughes, "Artists in California, 1786-1940"
Dictionary of American Painters, Sculptors & Engravers (Fielding, Mantle); Drawings & Illustrations by Southern California Artists (Wall Moore, Nancy Dustin, et al; Laguna Beach Museum of Art); Artists of the American West (Doris Dawdy); American Art Annual 1907-31 (obituary).
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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