Elliott Daingerfield (1859–1932)

A great artist who captured the wonder and splendor of nature in his landscape paintings.

By Kathryn Williams

Elliot Daingerfield captured the magnificence of the natural world in his panoramic landscapes, yet he was also known for his use of spiritual and mystical themes.

I. Biography
II. Chronology
III. Collections
IV. Exhibitions
V. Memberships
VI. Notes
VII. Suggested Resources

I. Biography

Elliot Daingerfield was recognized during his lifetime for his depictions of creative landscape paintings. Born in 1859 in Harper's Ferry, Virginia, he was raised in Fayetteville, North Carolina after his father was appointed as Commander of the Confederate Army in 1861. Daingerfield showed both talent and interest in painting at a young age after receiving a watercolor set for Christmas. As a teenager, he apprenticed himself to both a local china painter and a Fayetteville photographer. Eventually Daingerfield outgrew their small town teaching abilities, and at age twenty-one moved to Brooklyn, New York. There he studied under Walter Satterlee at the Art Students League, and in 1880 exhibited for the first time at the National Academy of Design. Over the next four years, Daingerfield became an instructor at Satterlee’s studio and continued to participate in the Art Students League.

In 1884, he established his own studio adjacent to that of George Inness in the Holbein building. This close working relationship allowed Daingerfield to learn from Inness and he later noted “the interest and influence of…Inness as of most importance in my work and art.”[1] Inness became a mentor to Daingerfield and taught him how to layer different glazes and finishes in between each of his layers of color. This created a type of glow or shine within the work, which captured the landscapes he was portraying in an almost magical way. Inness also helped to teach Daingerfield to paint from memory; this would allow him to continue painting off site after journeys to magnificent landscapes. One can see the influence of Inness in Daingerfield’s work by the color, scale, and the mood created within the landscape paintings. However, the inclusion of poeticism and mysticism of this visionary artist made the work his own.[2]

In addition to maintaining a studio in New York, Daingerfield also had multiple studios in Blowing Rock, North Carolina throughout his life. After a terrible attack of diphtheria from 1885 to 1886, he went there to recover. He was able to observe the Blue Ridge Mountains from his studio and the mountains became one of the recurring subjects in his paintings. By the end of his life, he had three separate studios operating in Blowing Rock, the latest and most well known of which was opened in 1916.[3] Much of Daingerfield’s summers and vacations were spent painting the majestic mountains, creating a glowing intensity of light that represented the power of the earth and land. In the 1890s, his landscapes and murals began to take on more mystical overtones, especially in the way he represented light. This can be seen in views from his studios in Blowing Rock of the Blue Ridge Mountains, as well as later views of the Grand Canyon, which he began to visit annually between 1911 and 1915 after a commission from the Santa Fe Railway Company.

Between 1897 and 1924 Daingerfield made trips to Europe where he painted several scenes of Venice. After his first trip, the influence of European art, especially elements of Impressionism and Romanticism, began to appear in many of his landscapes.[4] His work took on religious overtones as he employed light in a dynamic way, making it dance across the painting. In 1902, Daingerfield was commissioned to create a mural in the Church of St. Mary in New York City. The piece, entitled The Virgin, took five years to complete.

Daingerfield’s commission as a painter for the Santa Fe Railway Company allowed him to travel out west. The railroad company wanted to create interest in the tourist destinations they served by having art highlight the beauty of the land.[5] Daingerfield was a natural choice for capturing the wonder and almighty splendor of the Grand Canyon because of his reputation for powerful portrayals of the land. He captured the astonishment and intrigue of the Grand Canyon that was felt upon his first viewing, as well as the intricacies of the scene.

Although Daingerfield was a successful painter, he also earned money as an illustrator, teacher, and writer. In 1896 he began teaching at the Art Students League once again. After receiving the Thomas B. Clarke Prize at the National Academy of Design in 1902, he was also hired to teach at the Philadelphia School of Design for Women.[6] He believed that it was important to pass on his knowledge to other artists so that nothing would be lost. Towards the end of his life, he wrote articles and essays on art theory and on other artists whose work also reflected mystical subject matter within landscapes, and served on the Council for the National Academy from 1916 to 1919. He died in Gainsborough, North Carolina in 1932 when at seventy-three years old and is buried in Cross Creek Cemetery at Fayetteville.

II. Chronology

1859 Born in Harper’s Ferry, Virginia on March 26th.
1861 Moved to and was raised in Fayetteville, North Carolina where his father was appointed Commander of the Confederate Army.
1880 At twenty-one-years-old he moved to Brooklyn, New York to study art as an apprentice to Walter Satterlee at the Art Students League.
Had his work exhibited for the first time at the National Academy of Design.
Became a studio instructor for Satterlee for four years.
1884 Settled permanently in New York City with his own studio in the Holbein Building and three summer homes and studios in Blowing Rock, North Carolina, latest built in 1916.
1896 Teacher at the Art Students League in New York.
1897 Visited Europe and enjoyed painting using impressionist and romantic themes in Venice.
1902 Received the Thomas B. Clarke Prize in the National Academy of Design annual exhibit.
1902–07 Commissioned by the Lady Chapel of the Church of St. Mary mural project, The Virgin, in New York. Completed in five years.
1903 Teacher at the Philadelphia School of Design for Women
1911–15 Made annual visits to the Grand Canyon where he had commissions from the Santa Fe Railway Company.
1916–19 Was an active member on the Council for the National Academy of Design.
1924 Visited Europe a second time and continued painting more religious scenes in Venice.
1932 Died in Gainsborough, North Carolina and is buried in Cross Creek Cemetery at Fayetteville

III. Collections

Art Institute of Chicago, IL
Asheville Art Museum, NC
Butler Institute of American Art, OH
Church of St. Mary, NY
Georgia Museum of Art, GA
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, CA
Morris Museum of Art, GA
National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
North Carolina Museum of Art, NC
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC
St. Louis Art Museum, MO
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY
Toledo Museum of Art, OH

IV. Exhibitions

1880–1902 National Academy of Design
1882–85 Brooklyn Art Association
1873 National Academy of Design, Memorial Exhibition
1891 Brooklyn Art Association
1892–1906 Boston Art Club
1895–1910 Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts
1901 Pan-American Expo held in Buffalo, NY
1907–23 The Society of Men Who Paint the Far West, Corcoran Gallery of Art Washington, DC
1916–17 Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts
1922–23 Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts
1971 The North Carolina Museum of Art displayed 200 of Daingerfield's paintings
2012 The North Carolina Museum of Art has Grand Canyon and Evening Glow displayed

V. Memberships

Associate member of the National Academy of Design (1902)
Boston Art Club
Brooklyn Art Association
Lotos Club NYC
National Academician (1906)
New York Watercolor Club (1903)
Society of American Artists in NYC (1903)

VI. Notes

1. David Bernard Dearinger, Paintings and Sculpture in the Collection of the National Academy of Design (Vermont: Hudson Hills Press LLC, 2004), 141–2.
2. Peter Hastings Falk, Who Was Who in American Art 1564-1975: 400 Years of Artists in America (Connecticut: Sound View Press, 1999), 811.
3. Dearinger, 141–2.
4. Falk, 811.
5. Dearinger, 141–2..
6. Ibid.

VII. Suggested Resources

Dearinger, David Bernard. Paintings and Sculpture in the Collection of the National Academy of Design. Vermont: Hudson Hills Press LLC, 2004.
Falk, Peter Hastings. Who Was Who in American Art 1564–1975: 400 Years of Artists in America. Connecticut: Sound View Press, 1999.
Fanning, Eileen, ed. Who’s Who in American Art. New Jersey: Marquis Who’s Who, 2003.
Kuan, Christine, ed. The Grove Encyclopedia of American Art. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011.

Email or share this artist