George Curtis (1816-1881)

American

Curtis, an early Boston marine artist who was a contemporary of Fitz Hugh Lane in both time, style and subject matter, is well on his way to being widely recognized for his top quality and unique approach to composition. The rediscovery of his importance within American marine luminism was heralded in a 1993 exhibit of his paintings at the Peabody Essex Institute.

His early 20th century fade from prominence has more to do with changing cultural sensibilities than any misstep by the artist. It is unusual that he was overlooked for so long because of the degree of success obtained during his lifetime. He exhibited occasionally in the 1830s, and developed a working friendship with the director of the Boston Museum and Gallery of Fine Arts, Moses Kimball. Kimball commissioned the artist to paint his own ship. During the 1840s and beyond, Curtis drew additional acclaim painting sets for the highly regarded local theater, all while continuing to paint marines and seascapes of the local area, exhibiting more and more often.

He painted with a poetic sensibility; carefully constructing the illumination and atmosphere with as much effort as he lent to his finely proportioned full ships. His light is often that of directly diffused sunlight, giving a radiant glow to his subjects. The Boston Art Market took a rather bleak turn in the days during and after the American Civil War, and while Curtis advanced his art, he chose to paint a few New York Yacht Club ships and produced a chromo-lithograph of one work. It is still his mid-19th century output of Boston Harbor scenes and open seas which are highly desirable and becoming more so each day.

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