Alfred Thompson Bricher (1837-1908)

Alfred Thompson Bricher (1837-1908)

At the age of fourteen he went to Boston to work as a clerk in a dry-goods store and took art classes at the Lowell Institute in his spare time. In 1858, he was fully a professional artist when he met Charles Temple Dix (1838-1873) and William Stanley Haseltine (1835-1900) on a sketching trip to Mount Desert Island, Maine; the following year he established a studio in Boston, “up two or three pairs of stairs over the Merchant’s Bank [28 School Street].”[1]  In 1862, Bricher was in the newly-built Studio Building, which at that time was also home to fellow landscape painters Martin Johnson Heade, William Bradford, George Inness and Samuel L. Gerry. By 1867, he had a studio in the Tremont Temple building and the following year he moved to New York.

[1] Newspaper clipping, Archives of American Art, quoted in Jeffrey Brown, Alfred Thompson Bricher 1837-1908 (Indianapolis Museum of Art, 1973), p. 14 

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During his early career, Bricher made sketching trips through the Catskills in New York and the White Mountains of New Hampshire, but by the mid-1870s he shifted his concentration to marine paintings of the New England coastline, a subject for which he is now best remembered. Working in both oil and watercolor, he adopted a Luminist technique and began to contemplate the atmospheric elements of the scene before him, while staying true to his realist approach to painting.

Nineteenth-century Vose Galleries’ proprietor Seth Vose was a great admirer of Bricher’s work and handled his paintings from as early as 1862, buying ten to twenty pieces at a time! He was also promoted by Springfield, Massachusetts dealer James D. Gill, who sold many of his paintings to George Walter Vincent Smith, an avid patron of the fine arts. Bricher became one of the most well-known and widely collected marine painters of his day, however like many of his contemporaries his traditional land- and seascapes gradually fell out of favor with the advent of Impressionism. After decades of neglect, the Indianapolis Museum, in conjunction with the George Walter Vincent Smith Museum in Springfield, held a retrospective exhibition of the artist’s work in 1973, thus helping to restore Bricher to his rightful place among the leading 19th century American realist painters. In addition to the institutions noted above, Bricher’s work can now be found among dozens of museum collections, including Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago and the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh. 

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