The Italian Presence in American Art, 1760-1860

By Irma B. Jaffe | Go to book overview

to have had a succession of wealthy patrons willing to pay him large amounts of money for his most ambitious paintings in pairs or series even after the disastrous financial panic of 1837. Although it has been stated and repeated that American patrons wanted only American scenes from Cole, the example of Mayor Samuel A. Eliot of Boston, the original owner of Landscape with Tower in Ruin (Plate 67) which he bought from the artist, should be enough to refute such a notion. As it happened, Eliot actually turned down the offer of Cole New England Scenery of 1839 ( Art Institute of Chicago), painted on the same size canvas, in favor of Landscape with Tower in Ruin. This Italianate picture must have pleased him more, probably because of its wealth of associations with the Old World. Thus, the second larger pattern to be discerned in Cole's continuing success after 1832-1833 is discoverable in the fact that his well-to-do, well-educated, and well- traveled patrons -- men and women like Rufus Lord, H. J. Hoyt, Miss H. Douglas, Charles Lyman, Luman Reed, W. P. Van Rensselaer, Peter G. Stuyvesant, and Samuel A. Eliot -- willingly purchased his detailed descriptions or poetic evocations of Italy because, while remaining loyal Americans, they still loved that country as a spiritual second home just as much as the artist did.


NOTES
1.
New-York Historical Society, Diary of William Dunlap, 1766-1839, ed. D. C. Barck, New York, 1930-1931, III, 629, 632, 634.
2.
[ New York] Evening Post, No. 9456, New York, Thursday, December 6, 1832, 2. Not content to limit his chauvinistic panygyric to just painting, Dunlap added a final attack on imported sculpture at the end of this same notice: "They [ Morse and Cole] may be believed, as they are not sculptors, when they tell us that if our cities and states, when desirous of possessing works in marble would look to natives or resident citizens for sculpture, instead of sending thousands of orders to quacks, merely because they are Italians and in Italy, the country may be better served and more respected."
3.
Basic biographical materials on these two artists can be found in O. Larkin, Samuel F. B. Morse and American Democratic Art, Boston and Toronto, 1954, and L. Noble, The Life and Works of Thomas Cole, ed. E. Vesell, Cambridge, Mass., 1964.
4.
For a full review of Morse's personal life and financial arrangements, see Staiti, 319-21 and Appendix 4.
5.
Larkin claim appears in his article "Two Yankee Painters in Italy: Thomas Cole and Samuel Morse," American Quarterly, v, 1953, 195-200. Cole was in England in February and March of 1831, and by the time he reached Florence in June, Morse had already left.
6.
See D. Tatham, "Samuel F. B. Morse's Gallery of the Louvre: The Figures in the Foreground," American Art Journal, XIII, Autumn 1981, 38-46, and H. Crean, "Samuel F. B. Morse's Gallery of the Louvre: Tribute to a Master and Diary of a Friendship,"ibid., XVI, Winter 1984, 76-81.
7.
J. F Cooper to H. Greenough, Paris, December 24, 1831, in The Letters and Journals of James Fenimore Cooper II, ed. J. Beard, Cambridge, Mass., 1960, 167-68.
8.
Ibid.
9.
Noble, 93.
10.
Larkin, 1953 (as in n. 5), 195-200, and Staiti, 322-36.
11.
See B. Novak, "'Americans in Italy: Arcady Revisited," Nature and Culture: American Landscape and Painting, 1825-1875, New York, 1980, 203-204.
12.
Quoted in H. Merritt, Thomas Cole, Rochester, 1969, 31.

-129-

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