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John La Farge

Born: 31-Mar-1835
Birthplace: New York City
Died: 14-Nov-1910
Location of death: Providence, RI
Cause of death: unspecified
Remains: Buried, Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn, NY

Gender: Male
Religion: Roman Catholic
Race or Ethnicity: White
Occupation: Painter

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Painter, muralist, stained-glass designer

La Farge is one of the foremost American mural painters and decorative designers. He was born 1835 in New York City, the son of a French officer who came to America in 1806. He studied drawing with his grandfather Binsse, a miniature painter, and, after receiving a liberal education, traveled to Europe in 1856. With no intention of becoming a painter, he entered the studio of Couture in Paris, and upon his return to America went into a lawyer's office in New York. At this time he met William Morris Hunt, who helped him to appreciate color as well as to overcome many technical difficulties. In 1860 he married Margaret Perry, a great-granddaughter of Benjamin Franklin and niece of Commodore Perry, who opened Japan to the United States.

In 1876 La Farge was engaged for the whole mural decoration of Trinity Church, Boston, which was completed in 1877. In 1878 he commenced works in stained glass, and, with the assistance of Augustus Saint-Gaudens, built the King sepulchral monument at Newport, Rhode Island. In 1886 he went to Japan and the islands of the Pacific Ocean, where he made many watercolor sketches of native life and scenes. He painted in 1887 a large altarpiece, "The Ascension", in the church of that name in New York -- one of his finest works. He was elected to the National Academy in 1869, was president of the Society of American Artists and of the Society of Mural Painters, was created an Officer of the Legion of Honor in 1901 and became one of the first seven members of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He contributed extensively to magazines, and authored several books on painting, art history, and memoir. He died 1910 in Providence.

La Farge is one of the most influential and important figures in the development of American painting. he was one of the earliest representatives of French influence and a real pioneer in mural painting. His versatility was great. In his religious subjects he was the only American who worked in the real spirit of the old masters; but he also painted portraits, landscapes, and flowers. He worked in oil, in watercolor, on wood, and on glass. He has an individual style, and his technique is careful, though broad in brushwork. His color is varied, sometimes expressed with a charm that suggests all the opalescent qualities of a pearl; then again it is strong, with sharp and striking contrasts. His drawing is not always good. La Farge's greatest contribution to art, besides the mural paintings, is his successful experimentation in the manufacture and design of stained glass. They were epoch making in American art -- the first work of the kind produced in the United States -- and were distinguished by peculiar opalescent qualities.

Father: Jean Frederic de la Farge
Wife: Margaret Mason Perry (niece of Matthew Perry, m. 1860)
Son: Christopher Grant La Farge (architect)
Son: Oliver Hazard Perry La Farge (architect)
Son: John La Farge (Jesuit, b. 13-Feb-1880, d. 25-Nov-1863)

    University: Fordham University (as St. John's College)
    University: Mount Saint Mary's College Maryland (1853)

    National Society of Mural Painters President (1899-1904)
    American Academy of Arts and Letters 1904
    French Legion of Honor 1901
    French Ancestry

Author of books:
Considerations on Painting (1895)
An Artist's Letters from Japan (1897)
Hokusai: A Talk About Japanese Painting (1897)
Great Masters (1903)
The Higher Life in Art (1908)
Reminiscences of the South Seas (1912)
Gospel Story in Art (1913)


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