Elliott Daingerfield (1859-1932)

Elliott Daingerfield (1859-1932)

Elliott Daingerfield was born in Harpers Ferry, Virginia, but grew up in Fayetteville, North Carolina, where his father was in command of the Confederate armory during the Civil War. As a youth, he took art lessons from Mrs. William McKay, a china painter, and worked as an apprentice to a photographer.  In 1880, at the age of 21, Daingerfield moved to New York City to further pursue his art studies, working as a studio assistant for William Satterlee in exchange for instruction and the opportunity to paint.  He soon began teaching Satterlee’s still life class and also occasionally attended the Art Students League.  

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In 1884, Daingerfield first met George Inness, whose influence on the younger artist developed into a close friendship. He eventually moved to a studio near Inness in the famed Holbein building, and Inness became both a patron and strong advocate of Daingerfield’s work, buying several canvasses himself and often recommending the young Southerner to his own collectors.  Around 1886, after a severe illness, Daingerfield spent some time recuperating in Blowing Rock, North Carolina, and thereafter returned every summer, eventually building three homes over his lifetime in the rural landscape that became a familiar setting for his work.

At the start of his career, Daingerfield’s choice of subject matter was inspired by his North Carolina upbringing and the farmhands and provincial girls going about their daily activities. In this, he was called ‘the American Millet,’ after the Barbizon painter Jean-Francois Millet, famed for his depictions of French country life.  With Inness’ influence, Daingerfield developed a unique painting technique using layers of glazes and thin coats of varnish, resulting in compositions both rich in color and depth.  In 1891, Daingerfield lost his first wife in childbirth and three years later endured the passing of his mentor Inness. After his second marriage to Anna Grainger in 1895, he began producing religious-themed paintings, focusing a great deal on the Gospels, the iconic imagery of the Madonna and Child and frequently using Anna and their two daughters as models.  This evolution in Daingerfield’s work lasted well into the early twentieth century and found a willing audience. In 1902, he was commissioned to paint several large murals for the Lady Chapel in the Church of St. Mary the Virgin in New York and in the same year was awarded the Thomas B. Clarke prize from the National Academy for The Story of the Madonna. Daingerfield’s fervent belief in the connection between nature and God also instilled a sense of spirituality into the mystical landscapes he produced for the remainder of his career.

Daingerfield traveled to Europe twice in his lifetime, in 1897 and 1924, and journeyed west to the Grand Canyon annually from 1911 to 1915 on commission by the Santa Fe Railroad Company to bring the wonders of the West to the traveling public. The untamed beauty, unpredictable weather and distinct color effects of the Canyon offered an abundance of inspiration for both his allegorical paintings and for the poems he would often compose in response to sights before him. A gifted writer, Daingerfield authored books on George Inness, Albert Pinkham Ryder and Ralph Blakelock, and published articles on color theory.   Aside from the two European sojourns and the years spent exploring the Grand Canyon, Daingerfield spent the majority of his career between his native North Carolina and in New York. He became a full National Academician in 1906 and also joined the ranks of the New York Watercolor Club and the Society of American Artists. He exhibited widely throughout New York and frequently at the Boston Art Club from 1895 until 1906.  Additionally, Vose Galleries was a major handler of Daingerfield’s work during his lifetime and held his first public exhibition in Boston in 1914.

References: See Who Was Who In American Art (1999); Robert Hobbs, Elliott Daingerfield (Mint Museum of Art, Charlotte, NC, 1971); Janice H. Chadbourne, Karl Gabosh and Charles O. Vogel, The Boston Art Club Exhibition Record, 1873 – 1909 (Madison, CT: Sound View Press, 1991).   


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