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Artist Biography

 William Stanley Haseltine was born in 1835 in Philadelphia, the son of a successful merchant. His academic education took place at the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard University, and his artistic training was under the tutelage of Paul Weber in Philadelphia, and at the Art Academy in Dusseldorf. Weber was a student of the German school, and Haseltine’s decision to spend three years studying in Dusseldorf was prompted by his trip to Germany with Weber. While there, Haseltine became an important fixture of the American expatriate artist group. He traveled to the Italian Alps in 1856 with fellow painters Albert Bierstadt, Worthington Whittredge, and Emanuel Leutze. Immediately enamored with the scenery, Haseltine extended his travels down the length of Italy, and thus began his lifelong love affair with Italian subject matter.

Haseltine returned to America in the fall of 1858; he exhibited his Italianate landscapes at the National Academy of Design and the following year moved into the Tenth Street Studio Building, joining many artists whom he had studied with in Dusseldorf. During the decade he spent working in New York, his landscapes—both of Italian views and Northeastern coastal scenes—were well received, and his critical success was confirmed when he was made a full academician at the National Academy in 1861.

As of 1869 Haseltine had made Rome his permanent residence, though he continued to send his paintings back to New York to be exhibited. This painting, from 1871, features the nearby Castle at Ostia. The Renaissance castle was built in 1483 for Pope Julius II, from the bricks of Ostia Antica, a nearby Imperial port city that was being excavated in the nineteenth century. The site would have piqued the interest of many artists living in Italy, who, in the nineteenth century, were witness to the unearthing of fantastic ruins. The renewed interest in classicism—both from ancient times and the Renaissance—is apparent in Haseltine’s work, expressed with a German-influenced Romanticism of style that appropriately reflects the mysterious allure Italy had for many expatriate artists.

Upon his death in 1900, his close friend and fellow-artist Worthington Whittredge wrote: “I should sum up Haseltine’s excellencies as an artist, with three phrases: he was, from
the beginning, a superior draughtsman; he is a good colourist, and he has sentiment coupled, in an unusual degree, with strength and frank expression. His pictures can always be understood; they have a largeness and grandeur in form with agreeable masses of light and shade not often met with.” Castle at Ostia is a perfect example of these strengths.

Haseltine’s works can be found in numerous important collections, such as the Corcoran Gallery of Art and National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.; De Young Museum, San Francisco, CA; Farnsworth Art Museum, Rockland, ME; Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, MA; and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY, among many others.


Helen Haseltine Plowden, William Stanley Haseltine: Sea and Landscape Painter (1835-1900) (Ann Arbor, MI: Univ. of Wisconsin Press, 1947)

Barbara Novak, Nature and Culture: American Landscape and Painting, 1825-1875 (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1995)