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 Joseph Rusling Meeker  (1827 - 1889)

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Lived/Active: Missouri/Louisiana/New Jersey      Known for: landscape-bayous, portrait, figure

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Ad Code: 2
Joseph Rusling Meeker
from Auction House Records.
Near Lake Pontchartrain
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
A painter of southern landscapes, Joseph Meeker was born in Newark, New Jersey and grew up in Auburn, New York. He received a scholarship to the National Academy of Design in New York City, where he studied with the Hudson River School painter Asher B. Durand and with portraitist Charles Loring Elliott. After studying in New York City, he established a studio in Buffalo, 1849-52. He then moved to Louisville, Kentucky 1852-59, before settling permanently in St. Louis, Missouri, where he painted the Louisiana Bayou.

During the Civil War he fulfilled his military duties as a Union Navy paymaster on a gunboat that traveled the Mississippi River. While traveling along the Mississippi River he sketched the bayous and swamps of Louisiana.

When Meeker returned to St. Louis, Missouri, he became quite successful as a painter of southern landscapes based on the drawings he did in the military. During the 1870s and 1880s, Meeker worked in the manner of Luminism. "Meeker used light and color to heighten emotional impact and captured the hazy atmosphere light in the swampy environment. Meeker's paintings were influenced by the nineteenth century's waning romanticism and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem about eighteenth-century Acadian exiles, Evangeline."

Meeker is best known for his bayou swamp scenes, but he also created landscapes of the New England coast, the Wyoming territories, Minnesota, along the Merrimac River (NH), and also created portraits and did some writing.

Source:

Groce and Wallace, "The New York Historical Society's Dictionary of Artists in America"

Louisiana State Museum
http://lsm.crt.state.la.us/painting/meeker.htm

Peter Falk, "Who Was Who in American Art"

Biography from The Johnson Collection:
Best known for lush landscapes that convey the sultry serenity of Louisiana bayous, Joseph Meeker, a New Jersey native, received a superior art education. In 1845, he enrolled at the National Academy of Design where he studied portraiture with Charles Loring Elliott and was deeply influenced by the work of academy director and renowned luminist landscape artist Asher Brown Durand. Following his studies, Meeker lived first in Buffalo, New York and then, from 1852 to 1859, was active in Louisville, Kentucky, teaching at a local academy and exhibiting his landscape work. From Louisville, he moved on to St. Louis, the Midwestern cultural capital where Thomas Satterwhite Noble, Charles (Carl) Ferdinand Wimar and other artists had founded the Western Academy of Art. Meeker’s work was shown in the Western Academy’s first exhibition in 1860.

During the Civil War, Meeker served as a paymaster aboard a United States Navy gunboat deployed in the Louisiana swamp country, and it was from this vantage point that he discovered his signature subject. Despite the ever present heat and danger that characterized his Southern tour of duty, Meeker was enchanted by the bayou terrain, filling countless sketchbooks that later served as the basis of finished studio compositions. In reflecting on his career, Meeker wrote that the “sketches and studies I made during the four years I spent in the South are sufficient to last me for forty years instead of fifteen, and I shall see to it that their freshness and beauty does not fade away.”

At war’s end, Meeker returned to St. Louis and began creating his trademark atmospheric landscape paintings. Throughout the years 1865 to 1878, Meeker is thought to have made intermittent sketching expeditions to the lower Mississippi. It was also during this time that he began to write articles on his compositional techniques and painterly inspirations, in The Western, a St. Louis journal. Meeker was well known as a leader in the local art community, having assisted in the foundation of the St. Louis Art Society in 1872 and the St. Louis Sketch Club in 1877.

In Bayou Teche, color is laid out in close harmonics as the bright gold light of the sun upon the white-cast tree trunk fades when it reaches back towards the far horizon. The landscape evokes the classic arrangement of the planar field into three zones—foreground, mid-ground and rear ground. The absence of humanity in the scene reflects the grave mood of isolation and loss which haunted much of American landscape art in the aftermath of the Civil War, including the works of Carl Christian Brenner and Andrew W. Melrose. Though he never lived in Louisiana, Meeker was responsible for creating a mythic state landscape and, in doing so, fulfilled his expressed goal that “every artist ought to paint what he himself loves, not what others have loved.”

Meeker’s work can be found in many notable museum collections, including the Brooklyn Museum, Historic New Orleans Collection, Louisiana State Museum, St. Louis Art Museum, Montgomery Museum of Art, Morris Museum of Art and Ogden Museum of Southern Art.

The Johnson Collection, Spartanburg, South Carolina
www.thejohnsoncollection.org

Biography from Charleston Renaissance Gallery:
Born in Newark, New Jersey, April 21, 1827, Meeker was raised in Auburn, a town in the Finger Lakes district of New York State. There he received encouragement, if not actual lessons in art from Thomas J. Kennedy, a local decorator. He went to New York City in 1845 with George L. Clough, another aspiring artist from Auburn. They studied with Charles Loring Elliott, a portraitist who had previously worked as an itinerary in the Finger Lakes.

Meeker spent three years in New York. He returned to Auburn briefly, but by the autumn of 1849 was living in Buffalo. The American Art Union of New York purchased some of landscapes of the Buffalo area. In the winter of 1852 Meeker moved west, settling in Louisville, Kentucky. In his seven years there he painted views on the Ohio, Kentucky, and Salt rivers. He also gave art lessons in his studio.

In 1859 Meeker settled in St. Louis, a city which then rivaled Cincinnati as a western center with a substantial base of art patronage. The Western Academy of Art was founded in St. Louis the year of Meeker's arrival. The stated purpose of the academy was to form a collection of art, to establish an art school, and to provide gallery space in which artists could regularly display their work. Artists who had already found St. Louis to be a rich and rewarding environment in which to work and were established there by the time of Meeker's arrival included Carl Wimar, Ferdinand Boyle, Manuel de Franca and Alban Jasper Conant.

During the War Between the States Meeker served the Union cause as paymaster on a gunboat that patrolled the Mississippi Delta. The humid landscape of swamp and bayou made a profound impression upon him, influencing his production for the rest of his life. He was touched by the element of mystery that he found in this landscape.

Returning to St. Louis at the end of the War, Meeker took studio space at Chestnut and Fifth Streets. There he began to paint easel pictures based on his sketches and memories of southern Louisiana. He traveled extensively in the summer months to the upper Mississippi River, the Adirondack Mountains, Colorado, and Wyoming. At the St. Louis Exposition and Fair of 1878, Meeker exhibited five paintings, two of which were scenes of the Mississippi delta region and three of which were scenes on the upper Mississippi. Meeker also exhibited his work in the St. Louis galleries of Harding's, Zeeger's, and Pette and Leathe.

Meeker was active in St. Louis art circles. He was a founding member of the St. Louis Art Society in 1872, and served several terms as its president before the organization dissolved in 1880. He was active in the St. Louis Sketch Club, formed in 1877, which was open to professional and amateur artists alike. This club met in the artists' studios, and at each meeting the host for the subsequent meeting would announce a subject which all the members would sketch. When they next gathered, they would view and discuss each other's work. Meeker's suggestions included Longfellow's poem "Evangeline," the setting of which was the swamps of southern Louisiana.

After a full and successful career as a painter of the southern and western landscape, Meeker died at his St. Louis home on September 27, 1887.



Cynthia Seibels
Copyright 1990 Robert M. Hicklin Jr., Inc.



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