Charles Sprague Pearce (1851-1914)
During the 19th century, before the USA had established its own artistic originality, American artists were seduced by the art scene in Paris. An important group of American artists moved to that city, including Mary Cassatt, James Abbot MacNeill Whistler and John Singer Sargent, among many others. Charles Sprague Pearce may not be as famous, but his presence in Paris was important for the propagation and appreciation of American artwork in Europe.
Pearce was born into a wealthy Bostonian family. As a youth, he worked in his father’s Asian Art importing business and he fell in love with all things “Oriental”. He began his painting career in 1872, doing mainly portraiture, religious subjects and Oriental genre scenes. Pearce’s first public exhibition was at the 1876 Centennial in Philadelphia. His work is sentimental, rather detailed and sensuous with textures. He was one of the most inquisitive and ambitious of the expatriate American painters in Europe during his era, at various times experimenting with Realism, Greek and Roman Classicism, Biblical scenes, Plein-Air Naturalism, Orientalism, Impressionism, and even Pointillism.
Pearce’s blend of the exotic and the popular made him a much in demand artist in Europe and America. Sad that he is mostly ignored today.
In 1873, Pearce and his boyfriend, American painter Frederic Arthur Bridgman, traveled to Egypt and spent three months traveling down the Nile, making drawings and immersing themselves in the exotic culture. The next year, the couple traveled to Algeria for the winter months absorbing the life and culture of another foreign country, further adding to his repertoire of exotic themes.
Back in Paris, he painted Egyptian and Algerian scenes, portraits by commission, and decorative work, including the Thomas Jefferson Building at the Library Of Congress in Washington DC. He received medals at the Paris Salon and was made Chevalier of the French Legion Of Honor, among many honors and awards.