John Adams Elder

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John Adams "Jack" Elder (born February 3, 1833 in Fredericksburg , Virginia ; † February 24, 1895 ibid) was an American portrait , war , genre and landscape painter from the Düsseldorf School .


Elder, son of the shoemaker John Douglas Elder and his wife Mary, née Philipps, showed his talent for drawing through cartoons at school. With the help of attorney John Minor, Elder was sent to New York City at the age of 17 and was apprenticed to the portrait painter Daniel Huntington . In 1852 Elder went on a trip to Düsseldorf , where, thanks to Minors' mediation, he received private lessons from the history painter Emanuel Leutze until 1854/1855 . It is probably there that Elders Prison Scene was created in 1854 , a dramatic motif with a picturesque-romantic coloring on the subject of imprisonment in the dungeon with five figures, which indicates compositional influences of Carl Friedrich Lessing's history painting. In 1853/1854 he was a member of the artists' association Malkasten , at that time the social meeting place of a colony of American painters.

The Scout's Return , circa 1880, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

In 1856 Elder returned to the United States, initially seeking a foothold in New York City. Soon afterwards he opened a portrait painting studio in his hometown of Fredericksburg, which was destroyed by fire in 1857. He set up a new studio on another street. During the Civil War seemed Elder, who in late 1862 for military service in the army of the Confederate States of America was register as an illustrator for the satirical magazine Southern Punch (1863-1865) of the journalist John Wilford jumpsuit. After the Civil War, Elder worked in Fredericksburg and Richmond, Virginia . Elder portrayed his war experiences in several battle pictures, for example in the painting The Battle of the Crater . He made eight portraits of the Southern General Robert Edward Lee , under whom he had served. General Thomas Jonathan Jackson and the politician John Tyler were also portrayed by him. In his genre painting of the 1870s and 1880s he portrayed the everyday life of African Americans . In 1887 Elder spent a month at the residence of former Southern President Jefferson Davis and portrayed him there. During this time he contracted a malaria infection that affected his health to the point of death.


  • Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (Ed.): A Retrospective Exhibition of the Works of John Adams Elder, 1833–1895 . Exhibition catalog (with an introduction by Edward Morris Davis), Richmond / Virginia 1947.
  • Margaret Coons: A Portrait of His Times: John Elder's Paintings Reflect People and Events during a Critical Time in Virginia History . In: Virginia Cavalcade , 14, No. 4 (Spring 1967), pp. 15-31.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Sabine Morgen: The broadcast of the Düsseldorf painting school to America in the 19th century. Düsseldorf paintings in America and American painters in Düsseldorf . Göttingen Contributions to Art History, Volume 2, Göttingen 2008, ISBN 978-3-7675-3059-1 , p. 475 ff.
  2. Bettina Baumgärtel , Sabine Schroyen, Lydia Immerheiser, Sabine Teichgröb: Directory of foreign artists. Nationality, residence and studies in Düsseldorf . In: Bettina Baumgärtel (Hrsg.): The Düsseldorf School of Painting and its international impact 1819–1918 . Michael Imhof Verlag, Petersberg 2011, ISBN 978-3-86568-702-9 , Volume 1, p. 429
  3. ^ Judith H. Bonner, Estill Curtis Pennington (Ed.): The New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture . Volume 21: Art & Architecture . The University of North Carolina Press, 2013, ISBN 978-0-8078-3717-7 , p. 126 ( Google Books )