New Fitz Henry Lane artwork: the lithograph Sicilian Vespers

  • July 28, 2010 21:13

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Fitz Henry Lane, Sicilian Vespers, 1832, lithograph.
Fitz Henry Lane, The Corsair's Bride, lithograph.

Fitz Henry (formerly "Hugh") Lane’s career as an artist officially began in the year 1832, when at the age of 27, he was hired by Pendleton’s Lithography firm in Boston to serve as an apprentice.

As the earliest known lithographic creation by Lane had been his "View of the Old Building at the Corner of Ann Street," 1835, it was long supposed that it had taken Lane roughly three years of instruction at Pendleton’s to master the medium of lithography. 

Yet, new findings from the archives of the Boston Athenaeum now reveal that Lane pretty much hit the ground running when he came aboard Pendleton’s, easily mastering the process of lithography and firing off his first commercial illustration for that firm when he was still a mere apprentice, during the very same year he was hired. 

Titled "Sicilian Vespers" and dating from 1832, the piece served as the cover illustration to a music sheet, the “bread & butter” of the lithography industry whose production was generally the domain of the lowly apprentice.  The Gloucester artist’s initials are to be found in the lower left corner of the illustration, inserted in the water, albeit faintly. (This unobtrusive initialing is a characteristic practice of Lane’s, one that would endure throughout his career.)

With Sicilian Vespers having now been brought to our attention the beginning of Lane’s career as an artist has been pushed back by some three years, revealing that he had begun his career at Pendelton’s with a large and varied artistic skill set already in hand.  This discovery has also fallen upon the heels of several other, previously unknown music sheet covers rendered by Lane.  Sporting such colorful titles as "The Midshipman’s Farewell," "The Ship Is Ready," and "The Corsair’s Bride," these and other new discoveries are further broadening our understanding and appreciation of Lane’s early years as a lithographic artist… years which would prove the foundation upon which his phenomenal career as a painter would be established.

Detail of "Sicilian Vespers"

For more information about the art and life of Fitz Henry Lane, Mr. Craig’s book Fitz H, Lane: An Artist’s Voyage Through 19th Century America (The History Press, 2006) is recommended.

 


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Discoveries: Fitz Henry Lane

  • James A. Craig
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In 2006, the American art world was stunned to discover that it had been calling one of its most beloved artists by the wrong name. New research revealed that Fitz Hugh Lane (when alive) had actually been named Fitz Henry Lane. What other new revelations await?

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