The eccentric artist Albert Pinkham Ryder stylistically bridged the 19th and 20th centuries. He moved from Massachusetts to New York City in 1870, where he mainly painted seascapes and other images with mystical associations. His paintings do not present nature or real-life experiences. Instead, they show his inner visions and psychological turmoil. Ryder was admired by the first generation of American modernists, who welcomed him into the 1913 Armory Show as a likeminded artist.
Elihu Vedder grew up in Schenectady, New York. He left to study art in Paris and stayed in Europe for most of his life. After a brief period in the United States at the beginning of the Civil War, Vedder permanently settled in Rome. He loved mystical literature, and he painted magical subjects such as sphinxes and angels. Vedder was particularly interested in The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám, a book of Persian poetry (ca. 1120), for which he made over 50 illustrations.
After studying at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, Thomas Eakins returned to his native Philadelphia. Although he is considered one of the most important American artists of his time, he primarily built his reputation as a teacher at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Eakins insisted that his students paint directly from live models and believed in teaching male and female artists together. His work is recognized today for its commitment to unbiased realism and precise details.
Joachim Ferdinand Richardt was born in Denmark in 1819. He became an established artist with wealthy patrons including the king of Denmark, the Russian czar, and British royalty. He traveled to the United States for private commissions, eventually settling with his family in San Francisco in 1873. By the time he arrived in San Francisco, the city had grown beyond its frontier beginnings, and he is known for romantic depictions of his adopted home.
The son of an itinerant portrait painter, Jerome Thompson began his career as a sign painter and later became a successful portrait painter. He trained himself despite his father’s fierce opposition—although Cephas Thompson was an artist, he encouraged his older son to become an artist but wanted Jerome to become a farmer. Jerome persisted, and by 1850 he earned critical praise for his genre subjects—the works for which he is perhaps best remembered today.
George Henry Durrie was a Connecticut artist who is best known for his landscapes and winter farmyard scenes. His paintings were popularized by the firm of Currier & Ives, which published 10 prints—mostly winter scenes—between 1861 and 1867. These idealized depictions of New England farms resonated with Northerners nostalgic for the rural lifestyle being transformed by industrialization.
Edward Hicks was a prominent Pennsylvania member of the Religious Society of Friends, or Quakers, who believe in a direct, personal relationship with God. The Quaker values of equality, peace, and simplicity informed the subjects he chose to paint, and he is best remembered for his composition The Peaceable Kingdom, of which he produced more than 60 versions. He was not formally trained as an artist—he mainly made his living as a painter of shop signs.
Pippin’s modern image of John Brown had contemporary resonance. Despite Brown’s actions, the Civil War, and Abraham Lincoln’s emancipation of enslaved African Americans, institutionalized racism and Jim Crow segregation proliferated in the decades following the Civil War. Pippin was one of the most important African American artists of the 20th century. After bravely volunteering to fight in World War I, he served in a segregated unit, the famous 369th Infantry “Harlem Hellfighters” Regiment.
Thomas Hovenden came to the United States from Ireland at the age of 23. He trained in New York and Paris, and while in France he married a fellow student, Helen Corson. Corson came from a dedicated abolitionist family in Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania, where her father established Abolition Hall, a place where abolitionists gathered and where escaped slaves could seek refuge. This building later became the studio where Hovenden painted sympathetic images of African Americans.
Raised in a log cabin on the banks of the Ohio River, David Gilmour Blythe was almost entirely self-taught; aside from an apprenticeship with a Pittsburgh woodcarver, he is not known to have had any formal artistic training. Inspired by the gritty working-class subjects of 17th-century Dutch genre painting, Blythe satirized the political and social corruption that characterized American urban life. He also traveled Ohio and Pennsylvania as an itinerant portrait painter.