Louis Eilshemius


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Painter. Although he was a well-trained and widely traveled artist, his characteristic landscapes and dreamy figurative compositions display a seemingly naive and sometimes roughly sketched style. Born near Newark, New Jersey, Louis Michel Eilshemius moved with his family to Germany in 1875. In 1882 he entered Cornell University but left after two years to study at the National Academy of Design and the Art Students League. In 1886 he went to Paris for a year of study at the Académie Julian with the painter Adolphe–William Bouguereau. Subsequently, he lived in New York, but for the next two decades traveled often, visiting Europe, North Africa, Hawaii, and the South Seas. Eilshemius's relatively progressive early work indicated his interest in the French Barbizon painters, impressionism, and tonalism. In Approaching Storm (Phillips Collection, 1890) sun drenches a deftly brushed, colorful landscape before gathering storm clouds. By the later 1890s, he turned more frequently to fantasies of wispy nude females in outdoor settings, as in Afternoon Wind (Museum of Modern Art, 1899). Later his themes became less innocent, as disturbing narratives of fear and tragedy appear. Simultaneously, his technique became looser and less refined. Although Eilshemius admired Albert Pinkham Ryder and is often regarded as a representative of the same visionary strain in American culture, his paintings display little of the formal power and psychic tension that make Ryder's work so compelling. In 1920 Eilshemius had his first one-person show, arranged by the Société Anonyme, but this step toward recognition came too late. Within about year the embittered, eccentric, and increasingly unstable artist ceased painting. Paralyzed in an automobile accident in 1932, he spent his remaining years as an invalid, while paradoxically his art found greater appreciation.

Subjects: Art.

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