Samuel Colman (1832-1920)

Samuel Colman (1832-1920)

We see… how a quality of softness permeates his views as though his eye never rested on a harsh scene or on a setting that was without a touch of poetry. Color, draftsmanship, and the organization of his canvas by light and dark values are the essential components of the painterly quality of his work.

-Gloria-Gilda Deák, from The Romantic Landscapes of Samuel Colman

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Samuel Colman was born in Portland, Maine, in 1832. His father, a well-known fine book publisher, relocated the family business to New York City when his son was very young. It is through his father’s associations within the art circles of New York that Samuel was encouraged to pursue his artistic talents. He studied with Asher B. Durand, and by the age of 19, had his first work accepted by the National Academy. Colman became an associate member at the Academy by age 22, and a full member just eight years later in 1862. He traveled widely during his career, spending summers during the late 1850s painting in the Conway Valley, New Hampshire, with his brother-in-law Aaron Draper Shattuck and Durand, and also painted in the Catskill Mountains of New York state.  Like many of his contemporaries, Colman traveled abroad to Europe from 1860-62 and from 1871-75, and to the American West in 1870s and 1880s.  He developed his skill quickly, and absorbed the lessons these travels offered, to arrive at his own unique style.

Colman was a founding member of the Society of American Artists, the New York Etching Club, and the American Watercolor Society, where he served as its first president from 1866-71. As well as being a versatile artist, he was also an avid fine art collector, purchasing John Singer Sargent’s Fishing for Oysters at Cancale from a Society of American Artists exhibition. At age 80, he wrote Nature’s Harmonic Unity, his first book on the subject of art, and would follow that volume with Proportional Form in 1920. 

Colman was an important painter among the second generation of the Hudson River School artists. His works were often exhibited alongside his contemporaries Frederic Church, Albert Bierstadt, George Inness, Worthington Whittredge, John F. Kensett and others. His paintings are widely held in major museum collections including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the National Gallery of Art, the New York Historical Society, the National Academy of Design Museum and the Art Institute of Chicago.  

References: See “Who Was Who In American Art”  (1999). “The Romantic Landscapes of Samuel Colman” Kennedy Galleries, 1983. “New Hampshire Scenery” Catherine H. Campbell, 1985. 

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