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 John Hill Millspaugh  (1822 - 1894)

About: John Hill Millspaugh


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Lived/Active: New York      Known for: etcher, landscape, marine

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The following information is from the research and writing of Michael McCue, art historian and curator:

John Hill Millspaugh, born at Crawford in New York State, became a painter and etcher in the late 19th century and earned much respect for the quality of his work. However, he is little known today.

He was raised at Crawford on the Hudson River. At age 16, he went to New York City to apprentice as a stereotyper, which was highly detailed work creating relief plates of metal from original woodcuts. By the mid 1840s, he was working in Waverly as a stereotyper, and then moved to Ithaca where he met his wife, Marion Elizabeth Cornell. Her uncle, Ezra Cornell became exceedingly wealthy from the telegraph business and founded Cornell University.

John had a brother, Edward, who showed early talent as an artist and studied with Henry Inman, a leading Hudson River School painter. He died at age 31 from smallpox. Hoping to carry on his brother's work, John began studying art, and his most influential teacher was George Lafayette Clough (1824-1901), also a Hudson River School painter.

John Millspaugh's career between 1851 and 1871 remains undocumented, but according to his obituary, he considered himself an amateur artist. It is thought he made his living during this period as a stereotyper. A description of one of his oil paintings shows a family picnic, and one person reported seeing an etching of Cornell University. The only known painting in a public collection is dated 1872 and is titled "Autumn in the Susquehannock." It is a pastoral landscape in the Hudson River School style and is in the Palmer Art Museum at Pennsylvania State University.

In 1872, Millspaugh left Ithaca for New York City to take a job for an undetermined period of time at the Customs House. However, his family suffered when a severe depression, the Panic of 1873, hit a year later, and his son had to leave college.

By 1882, he reportedly was getting attention in New York City for his etching, an art form that was extremely popular at that time and tried by many artists. Millspaugh was invited to join the New York Etching Club, the country's first organization specifically devoted to that medium. His etchings are highly detailed, and most of them depict quiet landscapes. The earliest one published was likely "Evening on the Delaware," by fine-art publisher Christian Klackner. One of these works is in the Parrish Art Museum at Southampton, Long Island.

Millspaugh collaborated with Boston painter and etcher Louis K Harlow to publish works through Klackner. After 1889, Millspaugh did mostly self publishing. At an undetermined date, he left Manhattan and returned to Ithica to live. He and his wife spent the winter of 1893-94 in Denver, Colorado, and he died on the return trip to Ithaca.

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