Samuel Colman (1832 – 1920)
A significant landscape painter of the second generation of Hudson River School painters, Samuel Colman traveled widely and eventually went far beyond the Hudson River for subject matter. He created many large canvases of European, United States, Canadian, and Mexican subjects, especially scenes along the Hudson River and the White Mountains of New Hampshire. He also traveled to North Africa in the 1870s, and one of his most impressive works, The Moorish Mosque of Sidi Halou, Tlemcen, Algeria (1875) is in the Edna Barnes Solomon collection of the New York Public Library.
He was a full member of the National Academy of Design and lived long enough to see attention to his work eclipsed by that given to modernism. He was a key person in establishing watercolor as an independent medium that was good for more than just sketching.
Colman was born and raised in Portland, Maine, and early moved to New York City, where his father, a publisher and fine-art books dealer, introduced him to many of the leading artists and writers of the time. He studied with Asher B. Durand, a leader of the Hudson River School of painters, and by the time he was eighteen was exhibiting at the National Academy of Design and by age twenty-two was elected an Associate.
He served as one of the founders and first president of the American Society of Watercolor Painters, founded in 1866, and his watercolors were painted in a much tighter manner than his oils.
He and Thomas Moran are considered the two most important 19th-century painters to visit Arizona where Colman did panoramic views including the Grand Canyon (1882). They were some of the few Hudson River painters that ever went West. Colman first went to the West in 1871 and painted in Utah and Wyoming, and he also did numerous Oregon Trail depictions. One of his most noted is Ships of the Plains, 1872, now in the Union League Club in New York. In 1870, he painted Yosemite in Northern California, and in 1887-1888, visited Pasadena as a tourist.
Although he did not consider himself a Luminist in style, he manipulated light to create a glittery, silvery atmosphere, and others have called him a Luminist. Unlike his contemporary, Albert Bierstadt, he was not trying to create a sense of drama or of the grandiose; his works were sensitive and suggested quiet beauty.
He wrote two books on art: Nature’s Harmonic Unity and Proportional Form. He was also an etcher, art collector, an authority on oriental art and porcelains, and an interior designer, working with John La Farge and Louis Tiffany.
Samuel Colman died in New York City.
David Michael Zellman, 300 Hundred Years of American Art
Peter Falk, Who Was Who in American Art
Edan Hughes, Artists in California, 1786-1940
Biography from the Archives of AskART.