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Sydney Laurence (American, 1865-1940)

Also known as:  Laurence, Sidney Mortimer; Lawrence, Sydney M.; Sydney M. Laurence

Birth Place: Brooklyn (Delaware county, New York state, United States)

Sydney Mortimer Laurence was the George Inness of Alaska, specializing in tonalist, poetic paintings of the Alaskan wilderness and waterways and of the solitary daily lives of the region's inhabitants. His beginning art career read like that of a textbook academician: during the 1880s in New York, he exhibited works at the National Academy, helped found the American Fine Arts Society, trained with the marine painter Edward Moran, and studied at the Arts Students League; for his crowning "expat experience," he then moved with his wife to an artists' colony in Cornwall, England. Likely it was Laurence's subsequent adventurous experiences as an artist-war correspondent in Africa and China that triggered his wanderlust and propelled him to settle in Alaska around 1903, leaving his family behind in England. By 1920 Laurence had become a veritable commercial painter, Alaska's most famous artist with a booming studio in Anchorage, but his more modest early years in Cook Inlet, living in a makeshift camp at the foot of Mount McKinley, defined the soulful tenor of his landscapes. Laurence was interested in Alaska's unique, sublime nature, and in addition to Mount McKinley, he frequently imaged the area's noted light phenomenon, the aurora borealis.

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