As highlighted in our last post, Samuel Colman was one of the founders of the American Watercolor Society and became it’s first president between 1867 and 1871.
Colman was born in Portland, Maine in 1832 and moved to New York City with his family as a child where his father opened a bookstore. It is thought that the literate clientele that the bookshop attracted is one of the main reasons Colman developed his artistic talent.
He is believed to have studied briefly under the Hudson River school painter, Asher Durand, and he exhibited his first work at the National Academy of Design in 1850. By 1854 he had opened his own New York City studio, and the following year he was elected an associate member of the National Academy, with full membership bestowed to him in 1862.
His landscape paintings in the 1850s and 1860s were heavily influenced by the Hudson River school – a mid-19th century American art movement embodied by a group of landscape painters whose work mainly depicted the Hudson River Valley and the surrounding area. Colman is himself probably probably best remembered for his paintings of the Hudson River and one of his best-known works is his ‘Storm King on the Hudson’ (1866), now in the collection of the Smithsonian American Art Musuem in Washington, DC.
However Colman was also a keen traveller, and many of his works depict scenes from foreign cities and ports. He made his first trip abroad to France and Spain in 1860-61, and returned for a more extensive four-year European tour in the early 1870s in which he spent much time in Mediterranean locales. Colman often depicted the architectural features he encountered on his travels such as cityscapes, castles, bridges, arches, and aqueducts.
Colman’s artistic activities became more diverse late in life. He became skilled at the medium of etching and published popular etchings depicting European scenes. By the 1880s he worked extensively as an interior designer, collaborating with his friend, Louis Comfort Tiffany. He also became a major collector of decorative Asian objects, and wrote two books on geometry and art.
Colman died in New York City on 26 March 1920.