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 Ernest F. Piper  (1870 - 1914)

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Lived/Active: Colorado/Massachusetts/Minnesota/New Hampshire      Known for: Hudson River style landscape painting, drawing and design

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Ernest F. Piper
An example of work by Ernest F. Piper
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The following was written and submitted by Betsy Howlett.

Ernest F. Piper was my great-great-uncle, brother of my great-grandmother Annie C. (Piper) Way and my great-great-aunt, Mitta (Piper) Swasey.  It is mentioned that his art work came primarily from Saratoga, New York, Massachusetts and Vermont.  Indeed, he visited his sister Mitta often, both when she lived in Saratoga and when she lived in Southampton, MA. 

Ernest Piper was born on January 31, 1870 in New Hampton, New Hampshire. However, his primary home had been a ranch near Pueblo, CO, since he was a 9 year old boy and his family had moved there from New Hampshire. There he was married in 1896.  In 1900, his wife and newborn twins all died in March, while his little girl died in August.  He went with his surviving child, a 4 ½ yr. old son, to Southampton to build a beautiful home for his sister, Mitta, and her husband, Ed Swasey.  His little boy died in 1902 and he never had any other children.

While living in Southampton between 1900-1903, he married his second wife, his son’s first term teacher who was from Dummerston, VT.  His primary career was in construction; he was part of the Piper Brothers Construction Company, originally based in Pueblo, Colorado.  The firm later moved to Montana, where they worked in several different towns (primarily Billings and Great Falls). At least two of their buildings are on the National Register: the First Congregational Church in Pueblo, CO, and a theater in Billings, MT.

As for his education, I gathered this much information in various family documents:  He graduated from a Pueblo High School and studied art with a local artist, Joseph Hitchins, and even pursued his artistic studies in New York City and Chicago for a period of time. After he was through with his education, in the late 1880s, he joined the Piper Brothers Construction Company, bringing with him an aptitude for using the drafting table and for designing and sawing special stone constructions, according to his brother’s autobiography. He continued sketching and painting as a sideline throughout his life, which ended prematurely in 1914, following an illness and unsuccessful surgery.

He died on July 5, 1914, in Rochester, MN, at the Mayo Clinic; he is buried in Southampton, MA, beside his sister, Annie C. (Piper) Way and his second wife, Addie (Miller) Piper and his little boy, Harold.

Precise details surrounding his death have not been found. One obituary stated that Ernest was rushed from Great Falls, MT, to Rochester, MN, for surgery for a stomach condition. It was discovered to be cancer, found too late to save his life. He had expected to have surgery, but “the end came before an operation was attempted.”  This fact however does not seem a firm truth!  Another obituary said he died several days after surgery, yet another that he had had a stomach hemorrhage and they didn't dare operate for several days, but then...  and the obituary was unclear what happened next!

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Ernest F. Piper, a 19th and 20th century artist who painted in the Hudson River style, lived and worked in Saratoga, New York, Massachusetts, and Vermont - probably in Dummerston or Putney.  One of his pieces, a small landscape overlooking a hazy body of water, was in the Southampton, Massachusetts' family of Mitta and Edward Swasey.

Family documents mention Piper as a turn-of-the-century artist, but this painting appears to be mid-to-late 1800s in subject, technique, and style.  Even the composition frame it is housed in is typical of the time and location of similar mid-to-late 19th century paintings.

Written and submitted by Peter Kostoulakos, AOA, NEAA: Fine Art Consultant

Sources include: Black Thorne Antiques, Nashua, NH; Sue Jackson, Harvard Art, Harvard, MA; Swasez family document.

From AskART: A relative of Ernest Piper, Betsy Howlett, wrote that "Aunt Mitta's house was sold out of the family after her June 11, 1945 death." 

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