William James Stillman

By the 1840’s – especially with the publication of John Ruskin’s seminal work Modern Painters in 1843 – many painters were drawn to representing the natural landscape. Ruskin (b: 1819, d: 1900) was the most influential art critic of his day and exhorted his readers to “…rejecting nothing, and scorning nothing, believing all things to be right and good, and rejoicing in the truth.” Ruskin, also an artist, made detailed sketches and paintings nature and man-made objects and argued that “truth to nature” was the principle role of the artists. He championed the Pre-Raphaelites who in turn were influenced by his writing.

One of the painters that was influenced by Ruskin’s writings was William James Stillman. Born in 1828, Stillman was given an artistic education graduating from Union College in his home town of Schenectady, New York.  He studied art under the Fredrick Edwin Church an American landscape painter who put emphasis on light and held a Romantic respect for natural detail and was a leading figure in the Hudson River School of painting and had apprenticed under Thomas Cole the founder of the School.

The Oxbow, View From Mount Holyoke, North Hampton, Massachusetts, After a Thunderstorm (1836), Thomas Cole.
Niagara Falls, Fredrick Edwin Church 1857.
Heart of the Andes, Fredrick Edwin Church 1858.
Tamaca Palms, Fredrick Edwin Church, 1854.

To be continued…

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