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 Isaac Sprague  (1811 - 1895)

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Lived/Active: Massachusetts      Known for: botanics, topographic landscape, wildlife

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Isaac Sprague
An example of work by Isaac Sprague
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The following is from Peter Kostoulakos, AOA, NEAA: Fine Art Consultant, www.pkart.com

Isaac Sprague - self taught landscape, botanical, and ornithological painter - was born on September 5, 1811 in Hingham, MA and died (presumably) near Needham in Grantville, MA in 1895. His addresses are listed as Cambridge from 1846 to about 1855 and Grantville from about 1855 to 1895.

His art career started as an apprentice to his uncle learning the carriage painting trade. Later, in 1843, at the age of 32 he became an assistant to John James Audubon (1785-1851) on an ornithological expedition up the Missouri River. Among Sprague's duties were taking measurements and making sketches. His diary for this expedition is now in the Boston Athenaeum.

Sprague met Asa Gray (1810-1888) of Harvard College in 1844 and began illustrating Gray's books, a project that lasted several years. Some of the works include Gray's Botanical Text-book (1842), "Manual of the Botany of the Northern United States", ed. 2 (1856), and the two published volumes of "Genera Florae Americae Boreali-Orientalis" (1848-1849, discontinued because of lack of financing), containing 186 plates. He did the plates for the atlas (1857) to Gray's "Botany Phanerogamia" in Charles Wilkes' United States Exploring Expedition.

During the Years 1838, 1839, 1840, 1841, 1842 (1845-1876), he illustrated Asa Gray and John Torrey's various volumes of the U.S. War Department's Reports of Explorations and Surveys, to Ascertain the Most Practicable and Economical Route for a Railroad Route from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean (1855-1860). He also illustrated George B. Emerson's "Report on the Trees and Shrubs Growing Naturally in the Forests of Massachusetts" (1846, 1875, ed. 2) and George Goodale's Wild Flowers of America ([1876-] 1882). He illustrated "Beautiful Wild Flowers of America" (1882), "Flowers of Field and Forest" (1883) and "Wayside Flowers and Ferns" (1883), all with text by Alpheus Baker Hervey.

Sixteen of Sprague's black and white lithographs were published in William Oakes' Scenery of the White Mountains. The sixteen views of New Hampshire and Maine are: 1) The White Mountains; 2) Mount Crawford; 3) The Notch of the White Mountains; 4) The Lower Cascade at the Notch; 5) The Gate of the Notch; 6) The Falls of the Amonoosuck; 7) The Granite Cliffs of the Falls (two views on one plate); 8) The Franconia Notch; 9) Profile Mountain at Franconia; 10) The Profile Rock; 11) The Basin; 12) The Flume; 13) Nancy's Bridge; 14) Mount Crawford, from the Notch, Notch of the White Mountains (two views on one plate); 15) Mount Washington (two views on one plate); 16) Mount Washington over Tuckerman's Ravine. Number 10, The Profile Rock, is a multi view scene of New Hampshire's "Old Man of the Mountain", collapsed on May 3, 2003.

His work has been exhibited with the Houghton Library at Harvard University and the Hunt Institute in Pittsburgh, PA. Sprague's work is in the collections of the Museum of Fine Art in Boston, MA; the Hingham Public Library in MA; the Wellesley Historical Society in MA; and the Phaidon New York Museum.

Sources include:
Peter Falk, "Who Was Who in American Art, 1999, page 3129
Davenport's Art Reference, Gold Edition 2004, page 1920
Groce and Wallace, New York Historical Society Dictionary of American Artists 1564-1860, page 597
Smithsonian Institution Research Information System
White Mountain Art, John J. Henders
Michael Brown Rare Books, LLC, Philadelphia, PA
Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA
New Hampshire Division of Parks and Recreation




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