Samuel Colman’s (1832–1920) paintings are particularly emotive and sensitive renderings of nature, both picturesque and sublime. He also often depicted the relationship of humankind to its natural surroundings. As his career developed, he adopted a Romantic style of painting akin to that of J.M.W. Turner, favoring luminosity, evocative color palettes, and lively compositions that often show the wild and harmonious forces of nature.
Born in Portland, Maine, Colman moved to New York City with his family. His father opened a bookstore, attracting a literate clientele that may have influenced Colman’s artistic development. He studied briefly under Asher Durand, and exhibited at the National Academy of Design in 1850. By 1854, he had opened his own New York City studio. The following year he was elected an associate member of the National Academy, with full membership bestowed in 1862. Colman rose to fame particularly after the Civil War. One of the best-known works of the Hudson River School is his Storm King on the Hudson (1866), in the collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. This work is a sensitive and provocative reflection on the relationship between man and the natural environment in the 1860s, a period when the debate over preservation of the land versus industrial development was particularly heated. Storm King on the Hudson views, in a light-filled and atmospheric composition reminiscent of J.M.W. Turner, the beautiful natural environment encroached upon, and competing with, the bustle of human activities.
Colman traveled extensively, often depicting the architectural features he encountered on his travels, including cities, ports, bridges, and aqueducts. He made his first trip abroad to France and Spain from 1860 to 1861, and undertook a four-year European tour in the early 1870s. In 1870, and again in the 1880s, he journeyed to the Western United States, painting landscapes comparable in scope and style to those of Thomas Moran.
Colman was also an accomplished watercolorist, etcher, and interior designer. In 1866, he was a founding member of the American Watercolor Society, and became its first president from 1867 to 1871. Colman was a member of the New York Etching Club, and published etchings depicting European scenes. During the 1880s, he worked as an interior designer, collaborating with his friend Louis Comfort Tiffany on the design of Samuel Clemens’ Hartford home. He became a major collector of Asian art, and wrote two books on geometry and art.
Samuel Colman (1832–1920) Storm King on the Hudson, 1866
Oil on canvas, 32⅛ x 59⅞ inches
Collection Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC, Gift of John Gellatly, 1929.6.20
Samuel Colman (1832–1920)
A View of Yosemite, Spiller Canyon and Bridgeport Valley, CA
Oil on canvas , 8 ¾ x 14 ¾ inches
Signed lower right: Saml Colman
Image courtesy of Questroyal Fine Art, LLC