George Fuller

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About this artist

George Fuller was one of the most important late nineteenth-century poetic painters. He began his career as an itinerant portrait painter in upstate New York in the early 1840s, first assisting his half-brother Augustus Fuller (1812-1873). For several months in 1842 he studied drawing in Albany, New York, with Henry Kirke Brown (1814-1886). Then he settled in Boston, where he joined the Boston Artists’ Association to improve his draftsmanship and studied the art of GILBERT STUART and Washington Allston (1779-1834). Intending to continue his training while improving his portrait business, at the end of 1847 Fuller moved to New York, where he enrolled at the National Academy of Design and became immersed in the social circle of landscape painters and Pre-Raphaelites, including John Durand, William Stillman (1828 -1901), and SANFORD R. GIFFORD. Three painting trips to the South, beginning in 1849 and continuing in the late 1850s, prompted his interest in depicting the life of the southern black.

With the death of his father in 1859 Fuller was forced to renounce his career to manage the family farm. Before returning to Deerfield, he made his only trip to Europe, visiting galleries in England and on the Continent, where he admired Venetian painting as well as the art of Edouard Frère (1819-1886), Jean-Franqois Millet (1814-1875), and Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot (1796-1875). Although he exhibited infrequently during the next fifteen years, he continued to paint during his leisure time. Financial problems with the farm prompted him to exhibit his paintings in 1876 at the Doll and Richards gallery in Boston. His paintings of fanciful female figures, blacks, and rustic genre scenes revealed a looser, more atmospheric style as well as liberal use of glazing and varnishing. This exhibition marked his full-time return to art and the beginning of a notable career as the farmer who painted in an advanced, yet spiritual style. He began to exhibit regularly in Boston and New York, and by 1880 the Society of American Artists accorded him the honor of being unanimously elected to full membership (he had been an associate member of the National Academy since 1857).

His themes have affinities with French Barbizon painting, but his sensibility was heralded by critics as representative of New England sentiment. They called him the Hawthorne of art.

Deerfield, Mass., Memorial Libraries, Fuller-Higginson Papers (on microfilm, Archiv. Am. Art) § George Fuller: His Life and Works (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1886), with introduction by Josiah B. Millet, essays by William D. Howells, Frank D. Millet, William J. Stillman, and others, list of all of Fuller’s paintings § William I. Homer and David M. Robb, Jr., "Paintings by George Fuller in American Museums and Public Collections," Art Quarterly 24 (Autumn 1961): 286-94, checklist of known paintings § Sarah Burns, "A Study of the Life and Poetic Vision of George Fuller (1822-1884)," American Art Journal 13 (Autumn 1981): 11-37 § Sarah Burns, "George Fuller: The Hawthorne of Our Art," Winterthur Portfolio 18 (Summer-Autumn 1983): 123-45.