Elihu Vedder

(New York, 1836 - 1923)

North America, American

Born and raised on Manhattan’s lower east side, Vedder began formal study at age twenty in the studio of Thompkins Matteson of Sherbourne, New York. The following year, he went to Paris to work in the atelier of one of David’s former pupils. Later in 1857, he moved to Florence to study antique and Renaissance art. By the late 1850s, he was painting plein air landscapes with the leader of the Macchiaioli, which was the Italian equivalent to the Barbizon school.

When the Civil War broke out, the American returned to his native country. He soon attracted great public attention and critical praise for his enigmatic works. In spite of his American success, Vedder, accompanied by fellow artist William Morris Hunt, returned to Europe in 1865.

Italy became his home after 1869, where his circle of associates included the German artist circle of associates included the German artist Friedrich Overbeck and Americans Henry James, J.P. Morgan and Samuel Clemens. During a trip to London in 1870, he met many of the Pre-Raphaelites.

Vedder had a long, full career which included the production of magazine illustrations and of designs for stained glass windows for Tiffany as well as the continued creation of his allegorical, classicizing paintings. Considered his masterwork, his illustrations of 1883 for the Rubiyat of Omar Khayyam reflect his lifelong obsession with death, the question of the afterlife and other spiritual subject matter.

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