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Jasper Francis Cropsey (American, 1823-1900)
Birth Place: Rossville (Orange county, New York state, United States)
Born on a farm on Staten Island in 1823, Jasper Francis Cropsey suffered recurring stints of poor health as a young boy. While absent from school, he taught himself to draw by sketching architecture and landscapes. At thirteen, he submitted a scale model of a country home to the annual exhibition of the Mechanics’ Institute of New York and won a medal for his design, capturing the attention of New York architect Joseph Trench. Cropsey spent the next five years serving as Trench’s apprentice, and Trench encouraged his young protégé to incorporate background detail and even narratives into his architectural drawings.
Although Cropsey’s acute draftsmanship insured his reputation and financial success as an architect, it was the act of drafting a blueprint on paper, rather than the physical execution of his design that sparked Cropsey’s enthusiasm. Accordingly, his fluency with watercolors prompted the young artist to explore oil as a new medium in 1841, and he familiarized himself with this method of execution by copying existing artworks, including his own watercolors.
He left the country in 1847 to travel England and Italy with several of his American contemporaries and spent a short time working in the former studio of Thomas Cole, the founding father of the Hudson River School, while he was in Rome. Cole’s influence is evident in much of Cropsey’s later work. He did not return to the United States until 1849, at which time he was ready to make painting a full-time practice and livelihood. During this prolific period in his career, Cropsey produced in high volume, making frequent visits to the White Mountains, the Catskill Mountains, Greenwood Lake, and Newport, Rhode Island.
He returned to England in 1856 to settle down in the Kensington district of London, which he called home for the next seven years. Arriving with commissions already received from American patrons for paintings of castles and abbey ruins, Cropsey kept himself busy traveling the English countryside. During this time in the latter half of his career, he completed one of his greatest works, Autumn—On the Hudson River, in 1860, which received widespread acclaim and public recognition from both Queen Victoria and the London Press. This masterpiece, among others, earned him international prestige as “America’s painter of autumn.”
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