Thomas Doughty


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Painter and printmaker. Probably the first American artist to make a living specializing in imaginative landscapes, he anticipated achievements of the Hudson River School and influenced its early development. Born in Philadelphia and self-taught as a painter, he was apparently painting full time before 1820. In Philadelphia in 1830, with his brother John, he established a periodical, The Cabinet of Natural History and American Rural Sports, which published his lithographs. This enterprise occupied him fully for two years. Subsequently, he moved to Boston, where he had previously lived for nearly two years in the late 1820s. In 1837–38 he spent several months in England. After his return, he did not remain rooted for long in any location. He traveled, intermittently lived in New York, and resided at times elsewhere throughout the Northeast, as well as in Washington, D.C., and New Orleans. In 1845 he again left for Europe, this time visiting Paris as well as England during two years abroad. He died in New York. His wandering years probably reflected difficulty selling his work in the face of ever increasing competition from more accomplished landscape painters. Although Doughty attentively drew from nature, his paintings fall short of mature Hudson River School accomplishments. His views remain generalized, lacking both fidelity to given locales and accuracy in portraying plants, rocks, and other specific features. Compositionally, they generally mimic earlier conventions of landscape design, inherited primarily from eighteenth-century England. Nevertheless, his poetic, meditative scenes reverberate with feeling for the beauty of the natural world. With its rapturous treatment of a lone observer's contemplation before a plenteous landscape and light-filled sky, In Nature's Wonderland (Detroit Institute of Arts, 1835), epitomizes his strengths.

Subjects: Art.

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