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Edward Lamson Henry

Edward Lamson Henry was an American nostalgic genre painter whose scenes were considered authentic historical reconstructions by his contemporaries. Born in Charleston, South Carolina in 1841, Henry was raised by relatives in New York from the age of seven when his parents passed away. He showed promise early on and attended the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art. Later in 1860, he traveled to Paris to study with famous Parisian artists Gustave Courbet (1819-1877) and Charles Gleyre (1806-1874). At 19, he return to the United States and worked as a captain’s desk clerk on a transport ship for the Union Army. Here he completed many sketches of African Americans and Union camps along the Virginia River. After the war, he settled in Greenwich Village, New York where he established a studio and became recognized as a talented artist by the National Academy of Design. Two years later, he achieved the title of a full academician by the Academy.

Henry’s paintings were never considered to be the greatest, but were so highly detailed that they came to be categorized as a historical rendition of the late nineteenth century. Most nostalgic genre paintings can sometimes be mistaken as being romanticized or “cute” but Henry’s paintings were rarely characterized as such. This was largely due to his talent to create his subjects with both honesty and empathy, never favoring one race, class or gender. His artwork continues to be used for calendars, well past his death in 1919 and continues to be a window into the past.

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