Lockwood de Forest (1850 - 1932)
Child Glacier, Copper River, Alaska, 1903
Oil on paper mounted on canvas
10 x 14 1/2 inches
Initialed and dated at lower left: L de F / Jan 1 1903
Dedicated and titled on the support in pencil: Miss Ednah A. Rich / with best wishes / Lockwood de Forest / Child Glacier / Copper River / Alaska
City Art Museum of St. Louis, A Collection of Paintings by Lockwood De Forest, N.A., 1913
Lockwood de Forest was born in New York in 1850, the son of Henry G. and Julia Weeks de Forest. Although he had begun to paint and draw somewhat earlier, it was during a visit to Rome in 1869 that the nineteen-year-old Lockwood de Forest began to study art, taking painting lessons from the Italian painter Herman Corrodi. More importantly, it was on this same trip that Lockwood adopted as his mentor the American painter Frederic Edwin Church (1826-1900), who was then on an extended stay abroad. According to de Forest, his affiliation with Church, a distant relation on his mother's side, was the strongest influence on his artistic maturation.
During his late twenties, following a pattern established in his childhood, de Forest made two extended sojourns abroad, in 1875-76 and 1877-78. These trips took him not only to the continental capitals but also the Middle East and North Africa. It was through browsing in the extensive library at Church's home, Olana, that de Forest's interest in the great art traditions of the East was kindled.
From 1878 to about 1902, De Forest's landscape painting was overshadowed by his activities centered around his preoccupation with the Indian architecture and Orientalist styled decor that was fashionable in late nineteenth century America. From 1879-83, de Forest, along with Louis Comfort Tiffany (founder of the American Arts & Crafts movement) was a partner in the short-lived interior decorating firm of Associated Artists. Other members of the eclectic but prestigious company were Candace Wheeler and Samuel Colman.
In 1879, de Forest married the former Meta Kemble, a grandaughter of Alfred V. du Pont, and visited India on his honeymoon, a nearly two-year trip that he turned to his economic advantage, keeping his eyes peeled for objects and inspirations that would benefit Associated Artists.
De Forest's work was exhibited to acclaim at the Colonial and Indian Exhibition in London in 1886 and at the World's Colombian Exhibition in Chicago seven years later, attracting an impressive array of clients: the transportation magnate Charles Tyson Yerkes, Chicago hotelier Potter Palmer, and even Mark Twain. The end of the 19th century saw a fad for the exotic and Oriental, and de Forest was ready to cater to this clientele. There are de Forest mantel pieces and chairs in 'Olana', Fredric Edwin Church's home in the Hudson Valley, and an entire paneled room at the Cooper Hewitt Museum, which was once home to steel industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie.
An extensive traveler, de Forest traveled to Alaska where he painted coastal and glacier landscapes in which he attempted to capture the region's cold and mist. Some of these works were exhibited in 1988 at the Alaska State Museum in Juneau, and recorded in the catalogue Lockwood de Forest: Alaska Oil Sketches co-authored by Professor Kesler E. Woodward of the University of Alaska.
Currently, De Forest's art and interiors are enjoying a newfound interest. The Merchant and Ivory Foundation, is an arts organization founded by the Oscar- winning filmmakers Ismail Merchant and James Ivory. Its headquarters are in red-painted gristmill buildings that have been turned into exhibition and performance spaces near their Greek Revival house. The Mill is located high in the Hudson Valley, a nationally landmarked property. The Mill has a program of yearly exhibitions, and they recently featured the furniture of Lockwood de Forest in what is likely his first one-man design show since the 1893 World's Columbian Exhibition.
Lockwood de Forest died in Santa Barbara in 1932, at the age of 82.