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Roswell Morse Shurtleff (American, 1838–1915)
LOT ID: 67127
A country road, Berlin, Connecticut, ie. circa 1890

Oil, on canvas
20 х 48 in. (50.8 x 121.92 cm.)
Signed, and inscribed.
Lot description
An artist who spent over half his winters in Hartford, Connecticut and summers vacationing in the Adirondacks in Keene Valley, New York, Roswell M. Shurtleff was a prominent member of the second generation of nineteenth century Hudson River School painters who was well-known for his forest interior paintings.

Born in Rindge, New Hampshire on June 14, 1838, Shurtleff first came to the Adirondacks in 1858 when he accompanied a professed author to the St. Regis Lake area. The author borrowed Shurtleff’s money and then disappeared, leaving the artist to discover the surrounding region penniless and unemployed. During this trip and two subsequent trips to the area, Shurtleff visited Keese Mills near Paul Smith’s. He camped at nearby St. Regis Lake, and the “Philosopher’s Camp” at Follensbee Pond frequented by Ralph Waldo Emerson, John Holmes, James Russell Lowell and the renowned Harvard professor, Louis Agassiz.

The Civil War began three years later in 1861, and Shurtleff enlisted in the 99th New York division as a Union Officer. He was the first Union Officer to be captured by the Confederate forces. Severely wounded in Bethel, Virginia, he was forced to spend eight months in the infamous Libby prison in nearby Richmond. He was then released on parole and returned north, to Hartford, Connecticut, where he began to illustrate books. It was there that Shurtleff first saw the paintings of Keene Valley by Hartford resident John Lee Fitch. That summer, in 1868, Shurtleff, accompanied by Fitch and another artist, Dwight Tryon, visited Keene Valley for the first time.

A few years later, he built his own studio on a twenty-acre plot of land he purchased. He married Clara E. Halliday, and together they spent fifty summers there. During this time, he encouraged many important landscape painters to journey to the Keene Valley area, including Samuel Colman, William Hart, Winslow Homer, Homer Dodge Martin, John Francis Murphy, Horace Wolcott Robbins, George and James Smilie, Alexander Wyant and J. Alden Weir.

Shurtleff’s years of experience as an illustrator in Connecticut and New York provided him with the skills to achieve a unique style in his oil paintings, and both locations served as the perfect backdrop for a close investigation of the beauty and wonderment of its wilderness. By the turn of the century, he had achieved national acclaim for his forest paintings: “With daring spirit he has interpreted for us the grandeurs and mysteries of forest and mountain; the sylvan tongue of the trees; the river. As a painter of forest depths he is unequaled.” Shurtleff’s paintings are in numerous museum collections including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Adirondack Museum, Fogg Museum of Art, and the Corcoran Gallery of Art. He was a member of the National Academy and the American Watercolor Society and won medals at the Pan-American Exposition in 1901 and the St. Louis Exposition in 1904.

This work is indicative of Shurtleff’s oil paintings of the Connecticut landscape of the greater surrounding Hartford area. The frame is original, 1870s.
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