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Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 427

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This is the grave of Jervis McEntee.

Born in 1828 in Rondout, New York, McEntee received the modern equivalent of a high school education at the Clinton Liberal Institute in Clinton, New York, finishing there in 1846. He became interested in painting, especially the landscapes of a transforming New York that became known as the Hudson River School. He started exhibiting his work in New York City in 1850 and became friends with a rising star of the school, Frederic Church. The latter would become much more successful and famous than McEntee, but they remained lifelong friends. Needing to make a living while painting, McEntee started a business in Rondout, but gave that up after a few years and turned to painting full time.

As a painter, he was never much more than a relatively minor figure. He was admitted to the National Academy of Design in 1860 and knew everyone, but like many talented artists, was never quite able to break out of the mass other talented artists to become well-known. What McEntee was known for was being the center of the New York social scene after he and his wife moved there in 1857. They moved into the Tenth Street Studio Building, the pioneering collective live/work space for artists, as soon as it opened. Most of the artists were living alone, so they took on the role of basically running a salon. Among those who lived there early in its existence was Church, Albert Bierstadt, and Winslow Homer. McEntee also kept a detailed diary, especially during the 1870s, which today is an invaluable look into the lives of artists in the Gilded Age, especially because he seems to have been pretty gossipy in it. They’ve been at least partly digitized today, for those of you who want to check them out.

McEntee stayed there the rest of his life, but the social scene withered as he aged, especially after his wife, who was the real charmer of the two, died in 1878. He died of Bright’s disease in 1891.

Like a lot of Hudson River School artists, McEntee tended to focus on fairly gloomy landscapes, which given how lovely visiting these places seems to us today, demonstrates the very different way people saw nature and civilization in the 19th century. Let’s look at a few of his pieces.

A Cliff in the Katskills, approximately 1885


Mount Desert Island, Maine, 1864



Saturday Afternoon
, 1875

Jervis McEntee is buried in Montrepose Cemetery, Kingston, New York.

If you would like this series to visit other artists of the Hudson River School, you can donate to cover the required expenses here. Frederic Church is in Hartford and Thomas Cole is in Catskill, New York. Previous posts in this series are archived here.

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