Samuel Colman

American, 1832 - 1920


American painter, interior designer and writer. Colman grew up in New York, where his father, Samuel Colman, ran a successful publishing business. The family bookstore on Broadway, a popular meeting place for artists, offered Colman early introductions to such Hudson River School painters as Ahser B. Durand, with whom he is said to have studied briefly around 1850. Having won early recognition for his paintings of popular Hudson River school locations (see Storm King on the Hudson), he was elected an Associate of the National Academy of Design in New York in 1854. Most of Colman’s landscapes of the 1850s, for example Meadows and Wildflowers at Conway (1856; Poughkeepsie, NY, Vassar Coll., Frances Lehman Loeb A. Cent.), reveal the influence of the Hudson River school. An avid traveller, he embarked on his first European tour in 1860, visiting France, Italy, Switzerland and the more exotic locales of southern Spain and Morocco. His reputation was secured in the 1860s by his numerous paintings of romantic Spanish sites, notably the large Hill of the Alhambrar, Granada (1865; New York, Met.)


In 1862 Colman was elected a full member of the Academy. Four years later he was a founder-member of the American Society of Painters in Water Colors, serving as its first President until 1870. He journeyed to California in 1870 and a year later began another extensive European tour, this time to Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, Italy (recorded in the watercolour sketch On the Tiber, Rome, 1874; priv. col., see Craven, fig.), France, the Netherlands and England. He was a founder-member of the Society of American Artists, established in 1877 as an alternative to the increasingly conservative National Academy of Design. A passionate collector of oriental art and artefacts,Colman expressed his strong interest in the decorative arts through his involvement with the firm ofLouis C. Tiffany & Associated Artists, which the two founded with Lockwood de Forest and Candace Wheeler in 1879; they collaborated on interior design projects, including the redecoration of the White House, Washington, DC, in 1882 (see Faude, figs 6–8). From the mid-1880s Colman made regular sketching trips through the American and Canadian West, producing such vivid and atmospheric watercolours as Yosemite Valley, California (c. 1888) and Banff, Canada (1892; both New York, Kennedy Gals). In the early 1900s he curtailed most of his artistic activities, preferring to devote attention to writing his esoteric theories of art.



‘American Painters: Samuel Colman, N.A.’, Appleton’s J., ii (1876), pp. 264–6 

G. W. Sheldon: American Painters: With Eighty-three Examples of their Work Engraved on Wood (New York, 1876), pp. 71–6 

W. Faude: ‘Associated Artists and the American Renaissance in the Decorative Arts’, Winterthur Port., x(1975), pp. 101–30 

W. Craven: ‘Samuel Colman, 1832–1920: Rediscovered Painter of Far-away Places’, Amer. A. J., viii/1(1976), pp. 16–37 

The Romantic Landscapes of Samuel Colman at Kennedy Galleries (exh. cat., New York, Kennedy Gals,1983) 

The Poetic Landscapes of Samuel Colman (1832–1920) (exh. cat. with text by M. Flynn, New York, Kennedy Gals, 1999) 

Source: Oxford Art Online/Grove Art Online by Merrill Halkerston