Gilbert Munger: Quest for Distinction

Overview

To the roster of America's greatest artist-explorers of the nineteenth century, including George Catlin, John Mix Stanley, Albert Bierstadt, and Thomas Moran can now be added the name of Gilbert Munger. A Connecticut native, Munger achieved enormous artistic success by painting newly discovered landscapes of the American West with an accuracy and style admired by art connoisseurs and scientists alike. By the 1870s his talent and keen eye had carried him to the top of the New York and San Francisco art markets. ...

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Overview

To the roster of America's greatest artist-explorers of the nineteenth century, including George Catlin, John Mix Stanley, Albert Bierstadt, and Thomas Moran can now be added the name of Gilbert Munger. A Connecticut native, Munger achieved enormous artistic success by painting newly discovered landscapes of the American West with an accuracy and style admired by art connoisseurs and scientists alike. By the 1870s his talent and keen eye had carried him to the top of the New York and San Francisco art markets. His decline was equally dramatic: when he died in 1903 at age sixty-five, he was an almost forgotten man.

Gilbert Munger: Quest for Distinction showcases the work of this little-known artist, whose spectacular landscapes are as fine as those of any of his contemporaries. Munger sketched side by side with Bierstadt in the Sierra Nevada. As an expert who had painted the mountains, lakes, and valleys of the American West, Munger vouched for the authenticity of Moran's colors. And Munger's paintings were used by Yale University to instruct students about western geology and geography.

Following the nation's centennial in 1876, Gilbert Munger moved abroad, to England and later to France, where he was befriended by artistic and cultural luminaries such as John E. Millais, John Ruskin, and Sir Henry Morton Stanley. His paintings fetched thousands of dollars, and he received numerous honors and medals from European sovereigns. Yet when Munger returned to the United States in 1893, he found that his previous fame had faded. Without sponsors and support, his work was nearly forgotten for a century. This critical study, the result of a collaboration between computer scientist Michael D. Schroeder and art historian J. Gray Sweeney, sheds fresh light on Gilbert Munger's remarkable career and paintings and restores him to his rightful place in American art and cultural history.

About the Author

Michael D. Schroeder is an internationally recognized computer scientist with a distinguished technical publications and patent record. He received his doctorate from MIT, where he served on the faculty. As part of pioneering teams at leading corporate research labs, including Xerox PARC and now Microsoft Research, he specializes in network and Web computing, particularly E-mail and storage systems. Schroeder recently combined his professional expertise with a personal interest in the art of western exploration to build gilbertmunger.org, a Web site presenting the catalogue raisonné of Munger's 200-plus known works and documentation of the painter's life and art.

J. Gray Sweeney is a historian who has widely published studies and curated exhibitions about American art history. He received his doctorate from Indiana University for his study of the artist-explorers of the American West and the origins of U.S. National Parks. He has written about regional American art and the influence of Thomas Cole on the formation of the Hudson River School. Among Sweeney's recent studies are The Columbus of the Woods: Daniel Boone and the Typology of Manifest Destiny; Drawing the Borderline: Artists-Explorers and the U.S. Mexico Boundary Survey; and An Indomitable Explorative Enterprise: Inventing National Parks in Inventing Acadia: Artists and Tourists at Mount Desert. Sweeney is a professor of art history at Arizona State University.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781890434571
  • Publisher: Afton Historical Society Press
  • Publication date: 7/28/2003
  • Pages: 168
  • Product dimensions: 8.94 (w) x 10.80 (h) x 0.81 (d)

Table of Contents

Foreword 6
Curator's Foreword 9
Preface 12
Acknowledgments 15
Introduction 17
I American Years 21
1. Apprentice Artist in a Competitive Field 22
2. Artist-Explorer of the West 34
3. "Poor Munger": Painting for Scientists and Connoisseurs 79
II European Recognition 91
4. Expatriate Landscape Painter 92
5. Variation on a Barbizon Theme 109
III Long Years of Separation 131
6. Uncertain Return 132
7. No Living for a Good Landscape Painter 147
8. Aftermath 154
Appendices
I. The Munger Autograph 159
II. The Munger Timeline 160
Endnotes 162
Index 165
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