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Artist Biography

 A very important member of the Hudson River School painters, John William Casilear was born in New York City and began his artistic career at the age of fifteen as an apprentice to the prominent engraver Peter Maverick. He later apprenticed under Hudson River School artist Asher B. Durand who also tutored him in painting. Casilear’s interest and ability in painting developed in the 1830s, so much so that by 1835, Casilear was elected an Associate member of the National Academy of Design. He continued to pursue both engraving and painting, eventually becoming partner in the engraving firm Tappan, Carpenter, Casilear & Company as well as earning full membership to the National Academy of Design in 1851.

In 1840, Casilear made his first trip to Europe, accompanied by Durand, John F. Kensett, and Thomas Rossiter. They traveled extensively through England and on the Continent where they were influenced by the atmospheric landscapes painted by Claude Lorrain. Casilear’s painting style gained a more luminous feel. He became interested in capturing the delicate and fleeting effects of light and atmosphere. The Luminist painters, among them important figures such as Kensett, Sanford Gifford, Fitz Hugh Lane, and Martin Johnson Heade, were active during the middle decades of the 19th century. By 1857, Casilear’s success as an engraver enabled him to retire and devote all of his time to landscape painting. In 1858, Casilear moved into the Tenth Street Studio Building and later that year, he made his second trip abroad, staying primarily in Switzerland.

Casilear was active in the New York art community and was a member of several organizations, including the Century Association, the National Academy, and the Artists’ Fund Society. He often took sketching trips with his artist friends to the Catskills, the Adirondacks, the White Mountains, and the Genesee Valley. Casilear’s paintings are housed in important public collections including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New-York Historical Society, Corcoran Gallery of Art, and the Peabody Institute.