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    Description

    John S. Jameson (American, 1842-1864)
    Grazing Sheep at Headwaters of a Stream, 1862
    Oil on canvas
    18 x 33 inches (45.7 x 83.8 cm)
    Signed and dated lower center: J.S. Jameson / 1862

    PROVENANCE:
    The artist;
    The Honorable John Allen of Meriden and Old Saybrook, Connecticut (1815-1901), acquired from the above;
    By descent to the present owner.

    A rising star of the Hudson River School, John S. Jameson's tragically short life and career is an example of the human cost of the American Civil War not only for his generation, but also for generations to come. The only known Hudson River School painter who saw combat (Sanford Gifford and Jervis McEntee both served, but neither engaged the enemy in battle), Jameson paid with his life, and thus his paintings such as the present work, are exceedingly rare-only around two dozen are known to exist.

    As a prodigy in both art and music, Jameson attracted attention in his early adolescence as a church organist. His skill was fine enough to prompt noted musician William Mason, to select Jameson as his student.

    Jameson's talent as a painter was equally promising. About 1854, while still in early adolescence and still attending grammar school, he created a chalk drawing of his grandmother, which, purportedly, "was so lifelike that it attracted the notice of several Artists, especially of Mr. Frederick [sic] E. Church, who became, subsequently, his warm friend and patron." (Theodore J. Holmes, A Memorial of John S. Jameson, Sergeant in the 1st Conn. Cavalry, Who Died at Andersonville, Ga (n.d), p. 4)

    By 1859 Jameson enrolled in classes at the National Academy of Design, and visited Church's studio while the older artist was producing his masterwork Heart of the Andes (1859, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York). Not long after, Jameson began exhibiting landscape paintings at the National Academy of Design and with the Artists' Fund Society. He took a room in the Tenth Street Studio Building in New York, along with Church and other prominent artists of the day, and received favorable critical reception.

    At the peak of his talent and renown, Jameson painted Grazing Sheep at Headwaters of a Stream in 1862. The influence of the Hudson River School on the young prodigy, is evident in the expansive landscape and exploration into theatrical light and weather effects. Depicting lush green fields with a rocky stream in the foreground, Jameson populates his scenery with cattle, a figure in red that creates a focal point to draw the eye in, and provides the viewer with a glimpse of the mountainous view beyond. Bathed in golden light, this expansive composition demonstrates a mastery of atmospheric effects and distant perspective, devices that his fellow Hudson River School artists had determined to hone to perfection.

    Though a promising young member of the Hudson River School, Jameson's newfound artistic career would be short-lived, sadly. At the outbreak of the Civil War, the young artist felt a strong desire to put down his brush and enlist. Initially he heeded the warnings of friends and colleagues, who cited his youth, delicate health, and obligation to his widowed mother. But in 1863, he reportedly told friends, "My heart is there and I can accomplish nothing here. (Holmes, p. 11), and "I should be ashamed to be staying at home at my ease, while others were fighting at the front." (Paul G. Stein, The Prodigy, Artfixdaily.com, May 30, 2011)

    In January of the following year, Jameson enlisted and went to Baltimore and then to Virginia. There, as a sergeant in the First Connecticut Cavalry, he was well liked among officers, volunteering for scouting duty even when he was not required to do so. Jameson encountered Confederate forces at least thirteen times. In 1864, he was captured by Rebel troops and imprisoned in the infamous Confederate prison camp at Andersonville, Georgia. Drained by hunger and illness upon arrival, Jameson was admitted to the prison hospital, where he died shortly after.

    After Jameson's death, his mother wrote a letter to Frederic Church, expressing appreciation for his friendship with her son, and included one of his paintings as a memento. Church replied to her, "Of all the younger Artists whose personal acquaintance I have made, and whose works and characteristics of mind and heart came to my observation, no one has interested me so much as your son, or held out better grounded hopes of future high excellence." (Stein)

    Similarly, famed Hudson River School painter John Frederick Kensett would go on to say, "had his life been spared, the rare qualities of Jameson's mind-his exquisite taste and accomplishments, and fine promise of future excellence in his art, would have reflected honor upon this Society and upon the country of his birth." (The Sixth Annual Report of the Artist's Fund Society, 1865066 (New York, 1866, pp. 10-11).

    Indeed, the present work not only manifests Jameson's magnificent talent. This canvas also begs the question of what other accomplishments Jameson might have made had he not bravely given his life for his patriotic calling. As a meditation on the sublime and the presence of the Divine in the American landscape, this painting is only is a masterpiece of its era, but a monument to the American sacrifices of the Civil War.




    Condition Report*: Unlined canvas; craquelure and surface grime; varnish appears to be yellowed; Thick old varnish layer is difficult to penetrate with UV light. Framed Dimensions 28 X 43 X 4 Inches
    *Heritage Auctions strives to provide as much information as possible but encourages in-person inspection by bidders. Statements regarding the condition of objects are only for general guidance and should not be relied upon as complete statements of fact, and do not constitute a representation, warranty or assumption of liability by Heritage. Some condition issues may not be noted in the condition report but are apparent in the provided photos which are considered part of the condition report. Please note that we do not de-frame lots estimated at $1,000 or less and may not be able to provide additional details for lots valued under $500. All lots are sold "AS IS" under the Terms & Conditions of Auction.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    May, 2018
    4th Friday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 13
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