Lemuel D. Eldred (1848-1921)

Lemuel D. Eldred (1848-1921)

Born and raised in Fairhaven, Massachusetts, Lemuel D. Eldred was the middle of three sons whose father worked as a boat builder. This early firsthand experience of life among the town’s waterfront greatly influenced his inclination towards marine painting. After training with local amateur portrait painter William Mosher and commercial artist Caleb Purrington during his youth, the latter introduced Eldred to William Bradford, the noted marine painter who, at the time, was painting ship portraits and marine scenes on the Fairhaven side of New Bedford harbor. Bradford took Eldred under his wing and invited his young protégé to accompany him to New York, where Eldred spent the next five years painting in Bradford’s studio and studying at the National Academy of Design. He returned to Boston around 1875 and established his own studio on Bedford Street, which he later moved to Pemberton Square.

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Eldred was successful in Boston; he supported himself from the sales of his landscapes and coastal scenes and saved enough money to travel to Europe in 1880, where he enrolled at the Académie Julian in Paris before touring through Italy and southern France. He took a second trip in 1883, exploring northern Africa and Spain, and returned to Boston the following year, where he rented a space at the Studio Building on Tremont Street. By the early 1890s, Eldred was dividing his time between Boston and Fairhaven, and eventually purchased his mentor Bradford’s former studio, using it in the summers. His deep interest in history led him to be involved with the Old Dartmouth Historical Society in its early days; he also wrote articles on local history for Fairhaven and New Bedford newspapers.

                Eldred exhibited with the National Academy of Design in 1876, but was more involved with the Boston Art Club, where he participated in annual shows between 1876 and 1886, and worked with galleries in both Boston and New Bedford to bring his work to the public eye. Today his work can be found in private collections throughout the south shore of Massachusetts, and in the collections of the New Bedford Whaling Museum, the New Bedford Free Public Library, and Fairhaven Town Hall.


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