Monday, July 6, 2015

John Vanderlyn

Landing of Columbus
oil on canvas
365 x 548 cm
U.S. Capitol Rotunda, Washington, D.C., USA

John Vanderlyn (1775-1852), born in Kingston, N.Y., was an American neoclassicist painter. He became an important internationally known artist in the early days of the United States of America. He executed the first large-scale nude in the United States and various history paintings, some showing neoclassic influence.

As a young man he was enrolled as a student of Alexander and Archibald Robertson at the Columbian Academy of Painting in New York City. There he learned the basics of drawing and design and the technique of miniature painting. His painting brought him to the attention of U.S. Senator Aaron Burr who directed and supported the artist’s training over the next twenty years. Burr sent him to Philadelphia to study and then in 1796 sent him to Paris, making him the first American artist to receive formal training in France.

He came back to the United States in 1801 and lived in the home of Burr, then the Vice President. He returned to Paris in 1803 and went on to Rome where he painted his picture of Marius Amid the Ruins of Carthage (1807), which was shown in Paris and won him a Gold Medal from Napoleon and established his prominence in the European art world. In 1815, he returned to America and settled in New York City.

He also pursued entrepreneurial ventures. He erected the New York Rotunda (1818), a classical-style building near City Hall. The National Academy of Design had named him a member in 1826, but he refused the honor. His New York Rotunda project failed and, discouraged and debt-ridden, he retired to Kingston in 1829. Unsuccessful in most of his later enterprises, he returned in 1852 to Kingston where he died in poverty.