Thursday, November 5, 2009

Paul Sawyier, in memoriam

Today we remember the passing of one of Kentucky's greatest artists - Paul Sawyier.

Born into a family of amateur artists (though his sister became a professional painter, as well) in 1865, the Sawyier family moved to Frankfort (where his parents had been raised) when Paul was 5 years old. His father immediately employed Elizabeth Hutchins - an artist from Cincinnati - to provide private art lessons to his children.

Paul continued his art education under another famous Kentucky artist - Thomas S. Noble - at the Cincinnati Art Academy, from 1884-85. In the following 2 years, his crayon portraits were his lifeline. He briefly returned to Frankfort to work at a hemp mill, at his father's request, but left by 1887 to return to his artistic pursuits. Between 1887 and 1888, he created river scenes and landscapes around the capital, as well as his well-known Old Covered Bridge series - 6 copperplate etchings of a Frankfort bridge that closed soonafter.

Over the next few years, he moved between NYC & KY, studying with various artists, including another KY painter Frank Duveneck. He truly began focusing on landscapes and river views in various media (particularly watercolor - probably his favorite and best-known works) in 1891. Finally, in 1908, he simply bought a houseboat, and traveled the Kentucky River, making a living with his passion for 5 years before moving to Brooklyn (though his seeming restless spirit kept him moving around NY state). He died November 5, 1917, and was initially buried in Fleischmann, NY; in June 1923, his remains were moved to the Frankfort Cemetery.

His beloved paintings were possibly best-known in Kentucky, and are still popular today in prints. Though his paintings & etchings are rarely signed or dated, and he kept no diary, many of his more popular prints - and his style - are UNDENIABLY Paul Sawyier. Paul Sawyier originals are quite valuable, and rare, today. Although, as you can see below, in this November 3, 1909 ad from the Richmond Climax, some of his works also appeared in what today might be called an "interior decorating" store of sorts.

*Note: C.F. Brower & Co. was more closely related to furniture. However, in this (and other ads), Sawyier and other artists are listed under the "Art Department." I could find very little about "Brower's," but would love to know more, if anyone has further information regarding this particular store!

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