Brock & Co.

William Henry Holmes (1846 - 1933)
Still Life with Flowers, 1926
Watercolor on paper
7 x 5 inches (sight)
Signed, dated and inscribed at lower border: CHRISTMAS 1926 / W. H. HOLMES
Inscribed on the reverse: To Mrs. Menne Pilling / Christmas. 1926 / From W. H. Holmes
Period frame
Born near Cadiz, Ohio, William Henry Holmes was a survey-field artist, who earned a reputation as a skilled panoramic landscape painter of the Grand Canyon. He also did delicate watercolors in a traditional style, and was a writer, archaeologist, teacher and illustrator. He lived in Washington DC, Chicago and Royal Oak, Michigan.

Holmes was educated in the public schools of Georgetown, Ohio, and was a teacher until 1872. He then moved to Washington D.C. where he studied art with Theodore Kaufmann, and did sketches of specimens for the Smithsonian Institution.

In 1872, succeeding Thomas Moran, he became field artist for the United States Geological Survey, called the Hayden Expedition, of what became Yellowstone Park. The leader was Ferdinand Hayden, and from him, Holmes learned about geology.

In 1879, he went to Europe, and the next year he accompanied Clarence Dutton on a Grand Canyon geological exploration doing panoramas, nine of them, that led viewers breathlessly to the Canyon edge. It was said that these views were the highest point ever reached in topographical illustration.

He held positions as Head Curator of Chicago's Field Museum and Chief of the Bureau of American Ethnology from 1902 to 1920, when he became director of the National Gallery of Art.

Memberships included the Washington Watercolor Club, Washington Landscape Club, Washington Society of Fine Art, Society of Washington Artists, and the Cosmos Club. Among his exhibition venues were the Corcoran Gallery from 1919 to 1926, with the first one being a solo exhibition; National Academy of Design; Art Institute of Chicago; Boston Art Club; and the Brooklyn Art Association. The National Portrait Gallery in Washington D.C. has a collection of watercolors by William Henry Holmes.