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 Alfred Edward Mathews  (1831 - 1874)

About: Alfred Edward Mathews
 

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Lived/Active: Colorado/California      Known for: topographic town-views, portrait, genre

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in Bristol, England, Alfred Mathews became a noted artist of the Civil War for the Union Army and later an important western landscape, portrait and panoramic painter as well as a lithographer. In his western travels, he covered over six-thousand miles, primarily by himself. According to researcher David Hall who cites a June 1865 poster from the 31st Regiment Company B, Mathews was with this 31st Regiment Company B, Ohio Vol. Infantry, 1st. Brigade, 3rd Division14th Army Corps. In 1864, he transferred to Co. I April 20 , 1864, but the 31st Regiment Company affiliation likely explains why that Company appears in some of his sketches.

Mathews was the son of a book publisher and emigrated at age two with his family to Rochester, Ohio, where he was raised in a cultured environment of music and art. By age 14, he was a typesetter, and by age 25, he was an itinerant bookseller in New England, also doing landscape drawing.

During the Civil War, General Ulysses Grant personally commended him for his battle sketches, illustrations, panoramic depictions of the War in the deep South, and topographical work. Mathews served with the Union Army, and from his paintings four prints were made of the siege of Vicksburg. After the War, he made a panorama of the campaigns from the Vicksburg to Savannah.

He traveled extensively through the West after the War between 1865 and 1868, sketching and publishing works of Nebraska, Colorado, Montana and California. His goal was to illustrate books with panoramic views of the Rocky Mountain West and his work was timely because Americans were looking to the beauties of nature as a counter to the horrors of the recent war. Mathews believed that the scenery of the American West would be well received.

By 1866, he made available his western sketches in books titled "Pencil Sketches of Colorado," and "Pencil Sketches of Montana," which he hand lithographed in New York state. A third book, "Gems of Rocky Mountain Scenery," was published, but all of these books are exceedingly rare. The books were not all that well received because the American public had come to expect the grand presentations of Thomas Moran and Albert Bierstadt and found Mathews lithographs lacking in dramatic impact. However, his depictions of the Yellowstone Valley were defended by a contemporary woman artist, Abby Williams Hill, who wrote in her diaries "that what Mathews had drawn could not in itself be considered as 'beautiful but suggest so much of what is beyond' ". (Hassrick 22)

However, he created a panorama of the Rockies that he showed in Montana and Colorada, and this show was a resounding success, with audiences being turned away from overcrowding. The panorama was sold in Denver.

In 1870 and 1872, he traveled in England and in the eastern United States, and in 1872 to 1873, sketched for lithographs in California, but none of these works are known to exist. In all, it is believed that Mathews traveled about 6000 miles in the West, mostly alone and by ponies.

He died on his ranch near Longmont, Colorado in 1874.

Source:
Peggy and Harold Samuels, "Encyclopedia of Artists of the American West"
Peter Hassrick, "Drawn to Yellowstone"
Peter Falk, "Who Was Who in American Art"
David Hall, Note to AskART, November 2004

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in Bristol, England on June 24, 1831. Mathews came to the U.S. with his family in 1833 and grew up in Ohio. He was an itinerant artist before 1861. Following service with the Union Army in the Civil War, he settled in Denver, CO. He spent the winter of 1872-73 in southern California. While there, he made drawings for a series of lithographs to be used as magazine illustrations to attract settlers to the area.
Source:
Edan Hughes, "Artists in California, 1786-1940"
Artists and Illustrators of the Old West (Robert Taft); New York Historical Society's Dictionary of Artists in America (Groce, George C. and David H. Wallace); Splitter, p.47.
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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Alfred Mathews is also mentioned in these AskART essays:
Civil War Art

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