George Henry Hall

(21 September 1825 - 17 February 1913)

George Henry Hall was born in Boston, Massachusetts and raised in Manchester, New Hampshire. His father was a successful lumber dealer and his ancestors had come to the United States in the early 18th century from Ireland.

Hall attended public schools and studied art from 16 years of age. He joined a Boston art association, since there was no art school there, and met with its members in their studios to share critiques and encouragement. He also sent some of his works to New York's Art Union, where they were sold. Hall went to Europe with Eastman Johnson to study in 1849, funded by the sale of genre scenes and portraits. They studied at the Düsseldorf Academy which had a good reputation for the genre painters it produced. They studied drawing, proportion and anatomy. Hall was there for more than one year. He then went to France and studied in Paris for a year, visited Switzerland, and was in Italy for a year, where he had a studio in Rome. In the 1870s he traveled to Palestine, Egypt and Spain.

Hall's paintings, inspired by the British Pre-Raphaelite movement, often depicted still lifes, scenes from the Mediterranean countries or everyday life. The Smithsonian deems him to be "one of the most well-respected still-life painters in America," whose work was popular throughout his lifetime. Mid-nineteenth century still life paintings became popular, and several artists created "opulent botanical arrangements in which the beauty and succulence of each flower or fruit replaced the earlier emphasis on compositional structure." Hall, Paul Lacroix, Severin Roesen and John F. Francis created such paintings.

His work was shown at the National Academy of Art first in 1853. His works included historic scenes, genre paintings and still lives. Hall's works were shown in a solo exhibition at Goupil and Company in New York City in 1856. At that time it was rare for an artist to have a solo show, "Mr. G.H. Hall was given a public exhibition of his works at Messrs. Goupil & Co.'s store, which mode of exhibiting an artist's productions is entitled to some considerations. We think it has many advantages. The artist can choose his own place and light, and his works can be seen much more satisfactorily, than when placed in the midst of others."

Hall -- along with Calvert Vaux, Frederic Edwin Church, Jervis McEntee, Eastman Johnson and Sanford Robinson Gifford -- were friends and members of the Century Association in New York City, where they sang, laughed, drank and smoked. They hoped that proficient artists would be valued as keenly as successful men of business. Vaux had owned one of Hall's paintings.

Eleven people were killed on July 4, 1857 in the Dead Rabbits Riot, a battle between the Bowery Boys and a gang called the Dead Rabbits in Manhattan's worst slums located on the Lower East Side of the city. Hall made a picture, 'A Dead Rabbit' ('Study of the Nude', or 'Study of an Irishman'), depicting a bare-chested man leaning up against a stone wall and clenching a brick in his right hand.

His still lifes were shown in 1860 at the academy and early in that decade at Seville, Spain. By 1868 he was making genre paintings and did not return to still lifes in great number until the 1880s.

He lived in Paris, Rome and Düsseldorf for 23 years and traveled to Spain and Italy, and made popular paintings of peasants there. He made one for his friend William Cullen Bryant of a gypsy girl that was one of the most recognized paintings.

By 1874, he had a studio in New York in the Tenth Street Studio Building, working from that studio for many years.

The Catskill Mountains in New York was a favored place to live and work for many nineteenth century artists, particularly landscape artists. In Kaaterskill Clove in Palenville, Hall built a home and studio near La Belle Falls by 1893, when his photo was taken there by Lionel De Lisser. Artists Grotto there is believed to have been named for Hall.

He had an art studio in Rome during many winters. It was there that Hall met artist Jennie Augusta Brownscombe; They became companions and he was her mentor. Between 1885 and 1896, they spent the winters in Rome Italy. In the summers they shared a studio in Palenville in the New York Catskill Mountains from about 1908 until Hall died in 1913.

The Royal Shakespeare Company has a life-size painting that he made of William Shakespeare.

His work was shown at the American Art Union, Brooklyn Art Association and Boston Athenaeum. He was a member of the Union League Club and the National Academy of Design, although he resigned from the Academy in 1855, in opposition to the practice of bringing on new members but not giving them a voice in the running of the institution. Eight years later he was brought back into the Academy. At his death was one of its oldest members. Hall many friends from the Hudson River School. His works are in museum collections in the United States and Europe. Over the course of his career he sold 1,659 paintings. His works are in museum collections in the United States and Europe.

When he died, Hall left his home and property in the Catskills to Brownscombe, including the painting "Danaë and the Golden Shower" by John Smibert (Smybert). By 1912 she had donated a self-portrait made by George Henry Hall and a watercolor painting made by Hall of a Pompeiian fresco, to the Brooklyn Museum of Art. She also donated a sketchbook to the

Several sources state that he was born in Manchester, New Hampshire. An American Art News obituary and the Smithsonian says he was born in Boston, Massachusetts, Arthur Adams, author of The Catskills: An Illustrated Historical Guide with Gazetteer, calls Hall a "native of New Hampshire". Dearinger notes that Hall said that he was born in Boston and raised in New Hampshire.

George Henry Hall was one of the most well-respected still-life painters in America during the mid-nineteenth century. His realistic images of fruits and flowers were influenced by the British Pre-Raphaelite movement. Hall's success enabled him to travel to Italy and Spain, where he was greatly inspired by scenes of everyday life and created romanticized scenes of Mediterranean culture. Hall returned to still-life painting later in his career and his work remained popular until his death. Smithsonian American Art Museum

George Henry Hall was born in Manchester, New Hampshire on September 21, 1825. His father moved the family to Boston when the son was four years old. He began his career as an artist at the age of 16. In 1849, he traveled with his friend Eastman Johnson to Dusseldorf, Germany. Hall studied at the Konigliche Akademie for about a year, and continued his studies for two more years in Paris, and, in Rome, where he opened a studio. In 1852 he returned to the United States and settled in New York City. However, he remained an enthusiastic traveler and spent a total of more than 20 years abroad. During this span Hall has visited Spain several times, and spent a year in study in Egypt.

George Henry Hall was elected an associate in 1853, and in 1868 a member, of the prestigious National Academy of Design. He was also a member of the Century Association, a prominent social club for men in New York City. They held annual exhibitions and built a large collection. He exhibited at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts 1853-1968, the Royal Academy, British Institute, Suffolk Street Gallery, all in London, England 1858-1874, the Brooklyn Art Association 1861-1881, the National Academy of Design 1862-1900, the Art Institute of Chicago 1888, and the Boston Art Club 1881,1889.

One of the best-known still-life painters of the mid-19th century. In about 1857, George Henry Hall began painting fruit and flower still lifes. He was much admired and financially successful in his day, as mentioned in the famous Book Of The Artist by Henry R. Tuckerman, published in 1867. The author was impresssed that Hall received $12,000 for an auction of 75 small paintings in 1865.

George Henry Halls's fruit and flowers emphasized the rich abundance of nature and demonstrated scientific knowledge of his subject matter. The exactiture of his paintings were greatly admired. A critic writing for The Independent said, "His still-life pictures are his best, and in the really picturesque delineation of fruit and flowers he has few superiors in the country..." Although the table-top setting was a common in his work, his preference for placing his still lifes in a natural setting is indicative of his devotion to the aesthetic philosophy of John Ruskin. His work of the 1860s has affinities with the highly detailed, naturalistic imagery of the American Pre-Raphaelites, though by 1868 he was concentrating on figure painting and Spanish and Italian themes. In the early 1880s he returned to still-life subjects (e.g. California Grapes, 1893; Worcester, MA, Art Museum).

The subject-matter of George Henry Hall's figure paintings was often inspired by the Mediterranean locations he favoured. His art was distinguished by a dark colour range and highly polished finish and reflected his love of Venetian painting. After 1870 Hall exhibited regularly at the National Academy of Design, New York.

Hall's work is represented in the Abby A Rockefeller Folk Art Museum, the Chrysler Museum of Art, the Georgia Museum of Art, the High Museum of Art, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Brooklyn Museum of Art, the John H. Vanderpoel Art Association, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Source, © Copyright Ownership: & Mike Perez, Art Historian

Birth: Sep. 21, 1825, Manchester, Hillsborough County, New Hampshire, USA
Death: Feb. 17, 1913, Manhattan, New York County (Manhattan), New York, USA
Burial: Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn, Kings County (Brooklyn), New York, USA

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Self-portrait 1870 By Brownscombe

George Henry Hall, one of the oldest members of the National Academy, and its treasurer for many years, died on Tuesday in this city. He was born in 1926, Boston, and began the study of art when sixteen years old. He lived in Europe 23 years, studying in Rome, Paris and Dusselforf.

His pictures of Italian and Spanish peasants were very popular. Amone the best known was one of a Spanish gypsy girl which he painted for his friend, William Cullen Bryant. A composite life-size picture of Shakespeare, on which he worked for several years, is in the Memorial Gallery at Stratford-on-Avon. One of his figure pictures is in the Fairbanks Gallery at St. Johnsbury, Vt. He is also represented in the Metropolitan Museum. He was a polifi worker and had sold 1,569 pictures.

© Copyright Ownership: American Art News, Vol. 11, No. 20, Feb. 22, 1913, George Henry Hall

Best known as a painter of still life genre, George Henry Hall was raised and probably born in Boston. He began exhibiting portrait paintings at the Boston Athenaeum in 1846. After visiting the 1849 exhibition of modern German painting at the Düsseldorf Gallery in New York, Hall and his friend Eastman Johnson left the United States for the Academy in Düsseldorf. The first genre painting he exhibited was 'Rubens and his Wife Hawking', which he painted in Europe and sent back to the Boston Athenaeum in 1851. After a year in Düsseldorf, Hall traveled to Paris, where he remained for a year before moving to Rome. He lived in Rome until 1852 then returned to New York. Hall began concentrating on his still life and genre work after 1852 and gradually stopped painting portraits. He was elected an Associate of the National Academy of Design in 1853. Hall traveled to Spain in 1860 and again in 1865 or 1866. He returned to New York in 1867 and was elected to full membership in the National Academy of Design in 1868. During the 1870s he maintained his studio in New York but made trips to Italy, Egypt, and Palestine. He died in New York City in 1913.(1)

Although we do not know when Hall first visited the Catskills, it must have been before 1865, the year that he exhibited a painting at the National Academy titled 'In the Catskills- Portraits'. Hall became a seasonal resident of the area by 1867, when the local atlas identified him as the owner of a building on Kaaterskill Creek near the entrance to Kaaterskill Clove in the village of Palenville.(2) Hall moved nearly a mile upstream in 1871 and bought an old dry goods store from Elijah Trumpbour. Hall transformed this early nineteenth-century building into a large studio. Located across Bristol Turnpike from Burger's Hotel and next to the bridge over the Kaaterskill Creek. Hall's studio commanded a view of the Dog's Hole Falls with the Clove beyond. AT the same time that he rebuilt Trumpbour's store, Hall bought or built himself a small frame residence on a ledge behind Burger's Hotel. Distinguished by a flamboyant chimney covered in tiles that he had bought in Spain. Hall's studio quickly became a prominent local local landmark and tourist destination. From 1876 until well into the twentieth century. Van Loan's Catskill Mountain Guide directed tourists to visit "the studio of the Artist Hall, with its old fashioned chimney outside of the house and then stop at Burger's Hotel to water your horses." (3) After he built his studio, Hall continued to winter in New York City and to travel abroad, but he seems to have spent nearly every summer and autumn in Palenville.

Hall exhibited The Turner's Shop at the National Academy of Design in 1880. It was set in Jim Barton's turning mill, the only turning mill in Palenville that had two lathes. By 1880, Barton would have been much older than the turner depicted, so it is likely that this craftsman was Barton's partner and son-in-law Charlie Post.(4)

With his very best hung above his workbench and his apron on, the turner stands with his back to his customers and to the viewer. We cannot see his face. He works while the other figures are at leisure. The other man in the picture is seated; we see his face in profile. His social position is ambiguous. That he is not wearing a jacket like the men in John Cocks's Stage Coach in the Catskills oar the E. & H. T. Anthony stereograph View from the top of Kaaterskill Fall, Looking down the Glen, suggests that he is not a typical middle- or upper-class tourist and that he did not enter the shop with the women. If he had, it would have been exceedingly rude for him to have sat down while they remained standing. A plausible explanation for his behavior is that he was already seated when the women came into the shop, rose to greet them, and returned to his seat at their urging. If this is so, then we must suppose that the seated man knows the turner, but the fact that he has the time to visit suggests that he is not a working man himself.

The young women are clearly tourists. They have come into the shop to purchase walking sticks. While the taller of the two women studies the artfully turned ornament, her companion makes eye contact with the seated man. The intimacy of the gaze is somewhat unsettling, for she has reached out to her companion in a gesture that suggests a desire for emotional as well as physical support.

The three figures on the right are linked -- walking stick to walking stick, hand to shoulder. But the turner stands apart. He is isolated both at the end of his workbench and by the fact that his back is to his customers and to us. The unusual second lathe visually separates him from the figures to his right. The fact that we see his back instead of his face is the most visually striking element in the painting and can be described in two complementary way. On the one hand, the turner has turned his back because he is alone in the way that all craftsmen are ultimately alone with their work: he has turned towards his work, and his back represents the commitment of the serious artisan. On the other hand, in turning his work he has turned from his customers, and is dramatically turned back to suggest some degree of hostility or resentment. It is likely that Hall's decision to paint the turner with his back turned and his face averted was influenced by historical events in Palenville.

When Hall first moved to Palenville in the late 1860s, the local economy was already becoming increasingly dependent on tourism. In the early nineteenth century, most of Palenville residents had worked in the tanneries, the quarries, or as lumberjacks. Even after artists began to board in Palenville in the late 1840s, few residents had been completely dependent on tourism for their livelihood. By the late 1860s, most of the quarries had closed, the best timber had been cut, and the hemlocks necessary for tanning had become scarce. Most of the surviving tanneries and mills collapsed during the Panic of 1873. By the late 1870s, tourism was the major industry in Palenville, and many if not most Palenville residents had become financially dependent on the patronage of tourists.

The rapidity with which tourism grew is evidenced by the advertisements in Van Loan's Catskill Mountain Guide. Prior to the 1870s, most tourists who visited the Catskills stayed on the mountain top. No one published a guide to boarding houses in the villages at lower elevations because there was not enough demand for such housed to warrant a guide. However, every edition of Van Loan's Guide since the first in 1876 included a boarding house directory. The 1878 boarding house directory for Palenville listed five houses with a total of 275 beds. The following year, the year Hall painted The Turner's Shop, the boarding house directory for Palenville listed twelve houses with a total of 458 beds.(5) Some of this increase was due to the opening of the Winchelsea, which seems to have been the first local hotel run by non-residents. Unlike locally owned establishments, which were advertised as "Houses," "Boarding House," the Winchelsea was advertised as a "First-Class Summer Resort." Resorts like the Winchelsea were resented by the local citizens not only because they took business from locally owned establishments, but because they employed outsiders and frequently violated local liquor laws.(6)

By 1880, the local economy had become heavily dependent on the business of urban tourists whose wealth and drinking must have shocked the religiously and socially conservative residents. Residents who could remember the still recent days when Palenville had been a successful if small manufacturing center must have resented their increasing reliance on the patronage of city folk who saw them either as employees or as part of the picturesque scenery.

The turned back and averted face of the working figure in Hall's painting suggests the ambivalence that many late nineteenth-century Palenville residents must have felt toward the tourists they both needed and served. Moreover, whether the biographical Charlie Post who probably served as the model for the figure in the painting felt or was able to articulate this ambivalence, Hall is likely to have been acutely aware of it. In 1879-1880, when he painted The Turner's Shop, Hall was both an experienced world traveler who had spent years in Europe and a long-time local property owner. Unlike the women in his painting, he would have known Charlie Post and all the other local residents well. After all, he had already lived among them for at least thirteen years. And yet, of course, he was still the "Artist Hall," who came up from New York every summer. He was not a tourist, as were the women in The Turner's Shop, but neither was he a resident.

Hall's position in late nineteenth-century Palenville would have been like that of the ambiguous figure seated in the lower right-hand corner of The Turner's Shop. Neither obviously a tourist nor obviously a local resident, the seated figure both flirts with one of the tourists and seems to know the turner. Seated like an artist at his easel, he is both an observer of the little drama taking place in front of him and a participant in that drama. In the scene but not quite of it, the seated figure seems to be a surrogate for the artist: with his stick touching that of the woman at his right and his attitude of familiarity with the turner, he is connected to but apart from both tourists and the turner.

1. The most useful biographical account is Bruce Chambers, "George Henry Hall, A Revised Biography," an unpublished manuscript in the Hall file at Berry-Hill Galleries, Inc. See also L. M. Edwards, "George Henry Hall," in Domestic Bliss: Family Life in American Painting, 1840-1910 (Yonkers, NY: The Hudson River Museum, 1986.

2. F. W. Beers, Atlas of Green County, New York (New York: F. W. Beers, A. D. Ellis, & G. G. Soule, 1867).

3. Van Loan, Van Loan's Catskill Mountain Guide. An 1893 photograph of Hall at work in his studio is to be found in R. Lionel De Lisser, Picturesque Catskills: Green County (1894; reprint, Cornwallville, NY: Hope Farm Press, 1983). The building's history is traced in New York State Museum Division of Historical and Anthropological Services, Cultural Resources Survey Report, Subject: PIN 1124.09.122, 165-173, 184.

4. The turner is identified in Terrance DePietro, "Papers on Palenville" (Palenville, NY: Terrance Gallery, n.d.), an unpublished manuscript in the Hall file at Berry-Hill Galleries, Inc.

5. Unfortunately, the earliest such directory I have been able to locate is for 1878. Some of the increase in the number of beds listed may be due to the rapidly increasing scale of Catskill tourism and to the increasingly organized structure of the hospitality industry. The publication of Van Loan's Guide no doubt hastened the growth of local tourism, but the fact that the Guide was an immediate and long-lasting success suggests that the conditions necessary to the rapid growth of tourism was already present in 1876.

6. On the resentment residents felt toward summer visitors, see Evers, The Catskills, 483-484.


The Catskills: Painters, Writers, and Tourists in the Mountains, 1820-1895
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