Samuel Colman

(March 4, 1832 - March 26, 1920)

#A member of the second generation of Hudson River School painters, Samuel Colman, a native of Maine, was raised in New York City. His father owned a successful publishing business, where the young Colman was exposed to fine art prints. In New York he studied briefly with Asher B. Durand, and by 1860, had embarked on the first of several trips to Europe. He visited France, Italy, and Switzerland, and was one of the first American artists to paint in the more remote locales of Spain and Morocco. Upon his return he had several exhibitions of the paintings done abroad. He became a full member of the National Academy of Design in 1862. Colman was not so much intent on recording a specific locale as in offering the viewer a respite from the cares of daily life. As Colman's teacher Durand noted in regard to one of his own similarly pastoral landscapes: "To the rich merchant and capitalist...released from the world-struggle, so far as to allow a little time to rest and reflect in, landscape art especially appeals.... in spite of the discordant clamor and conflict of the crowded city, the true landscape becomes a thing of more than outward beauty....It becomes companionable, holding silent converse with the feelings...touching a chord that vibrates to the inmost recesses of the heart." His works are widely held by public and private collections.


Painter, etcher, and designer. Unusually versatile, he painted western scenery and romantically flavored foreign locales, spearheaded the American watercolor movement, and worked with Louis Comfort Tiffany on decorative projects. Also an early and knowledgeable enthusiast for Asian culture, he amassed a large collection of Japanese art and decorative objects. A native of Portland, Maine, Colman spent his formative years in New York and probably studied briefly as a young man with Asher B. Durand. At the outset of his career, he painted landscapes of the Northeast in the style of the Hudson River School. In 1860, he went abroad for two years, spending most of his time in Paris and Madrid, but also traveling through southern Spain to Morocco. During this time, he developed more fluent brushwork, as well as an increased sensitivity to effects of light. Probably inspired in part by the example of J. M. W. Turner's paintings, these characteristics also may reflect a growing interest in watercolor. After his return to New York, he served as the founding president of the American Society of Painters in Water-Colors (later the American Watercolor Society) from 1866 until 1870, and later remained active in its exhibition program. In 1870, he traveled for the first time to the West, reaching the Rocky Mountains. He may have returned the following summer before departing late in the year for four additional years in Europe and North Africa. Subsequently, his new enthusiasm for printmaking contributed to the etching revival then under way, and he numbered among the founders of the progressive Society of American Artists in 1877. In 1879, he joined with Tiffany and two others to form a collaborative interior design firm, Associated Artists. After the group disbanded four years later, Colman continued to work frequently with Tiffany on such sumptuous projects as the decoration of the 1890–91, Henry O. Havemeyer house in New York, a monument of the aesthetic movement. From the mid-1880s Colman reinvigorated his fascination with the West, traveling across the continent and visiting Canada and Mexico, as well. The subdued and personal western views of these years often achieve an intimate tone, perhaps reflecting an influence from his own collection of Barbizon work. After 1900, he increasingly turned his attention from painting to art theory, publishing his thoughts in two books, both written in collaboration with C. Arthur Coan. Nature's Harmonic Unity (1912), attempted to provide a mathematical basis for art. A sequel, Proportional Form (1920), appeared just before Colman's death in New York.