TRUMAN SEYMOUR (American, 1824-1891) Watercolors & Drawings at Martha Richardson Fine Art

  • BOSTON, Massachusetts
  • /
  • March 14, 2011

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Truman Seymour (American, 1824-1891) Lake with Cattails. Watercolor on paper, 6-1/4 x 9 inches.
Martha Richardson Gallery

Truman Seymour (1824-1891) was a superb watercolorist who, after an impressive military career, spent his retirement painting in Europe. At 18, he entered West Point where he was privileged to study under the renowned American artist, Robert Walter Weir. Drawing classes were then a military requirement and Seymour's exceptional artistic talent led to an appointment as Assistant Professor of Drawing at West Point in 1850. He married Weir's daughter Louisa and began a lasting friendship with her two younger brothers, the artists John Ferguson Weir and Julian Alden Weir. 

Truman Seymour (American, 1824-1891) Facade, Seville. Dated March 17. 85 and inscribed Seville, l.r. Watercolor on paper, 10-7/8 x 7-1/4 inches.
Martha Richardson Fine Art

In 1869, Seymour spent the winter in New York where he found himself in the middle of its flourishing art world. His letters were filled with news of his friends and fellow artists Worthington Whittridge, John F. Kensett, Eastman Johnson, John W. Casilear and Elihu Vedder. Seymour's military career spanned thirty years during which he served in the Mexican War and the Civil War. He was decorated numerous times for his bravery and achieved the rank of brevet major general. However, in 1876, Seymour was in poor health and retired from the military. He and Louisa had visited Europe in 1859 and decided to move there permanently in 1877. After extensive travel, the couple settled in Florence.

It was while living in Europe that Seymour produced the vast majority of the watercolors on view. With saturated colors on his brush, Seymour captured the hot Mediterranean sun against the side of a stucco house in Seville, the detailed brickwork around the Alhambra in Granada and the colorful markets in Tangier. Ken Ahrens, curator of two exhibitions on the artist, points out that Seymour's interest in portraying fragmentary architectural settings relates both to photography and to the popular English writer John Ruskin. Ruskin's theories may have been introduced to Seymour by his friend Henry Roderick Newman, another American watercolorist living in Florence.

Ahrens describes Seymour's watercolors of this period as a "symphony of light and color." His ability to capture vast panoramic views reflects his training in aerial perspective at West Point and the dramatic skies of his Alpine scenes show the influence of JMW Turner. The watercolors included in this exhibition were executed in Mexico, Seville, Granada, Florence, Venice, the Alpine Lake region, Tangier and Paris. They have been preserved out of the sunlight for more than 100 years and are astounding for their vivid colors.


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Tags: American art

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