Enoch Wood Perry, Jr. (1831–1915)
Given his life’s history, it seems that American artist Enoch Wood Perry, Jr. always intended to be an artist. Although born in Boston, Perry spent a number of years in New Orleans after his family moved to the Southern port city around 1844. Determined to pursue an artistic vocation, he worked as a clerk for four years to earn money for training across the Atlantic. Upon reaching his financial goal, Perry quickly boarded a ship bound for Düsseldorf where he studied for two years with America’s adopted history painter, German-born artist Emanuel Leutze. The artist relocated to Paris to study with yet another artistic luminary, Thomas Couture, before traveling to Italy. Perry made quite an impression while in Rome and Venice, and eventually served as U.S. Consul in the country’s capital for two years beginning in 1856.
Following his term as U.S. Consul, Perry returned to the United States, where he specialized in portraits and genre scenes. The artist was not content to remain in one place and traveled to a number of states including Utah, California, and Hawaii. Significantly, Perry was able to maintain a growing portrait business in each location, painting the likenesses of notable men such as Jefferson Davis, Brigham Young, and Ulysses S. Grant. He also managed to meet America’s undisputed painter of the West, Albert Bierstadt, with whom he traveled to Yosemite.
Like many artists, Perry settled in New York during his later years, renting a studio in the famous Tenth Street Studio Building. He exhibited genre scenes with great frequency at the National Academy of Design – an association of which he was made a member in 1869. His popularity as America’s painter of everyday scenes was noted in newspapers, one of which claimed that he was at the “head of [America’s] genre painters” in 1875. In addition to the National Academy, Perry also exhibited at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the Brooklyn Arts Association, and the Art Institute of Chicago. Today, his works are included in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Louisiana State Museum, Oakland Museum, and the Bishop Museum in Honolulu.
Edwards, Lee M. “Enoch Wood Perry.” In Domestic Bliss, Family Life in American Painting, 1840 – 1910. Yonkers, NY: The Hudson River Museum, 1986.
Falk, Peter Hastings, Ed. Who Was Who in American Art 1564-1975: 400 Years of Artists in America. Madison, CT: Sound View Press, 1999.
Saville, Jennifer. “Hawaii and its People.” American Art Review 8, no. 3 (May – June 2001): 108 – 119.
Williams, Hermann Warner, Jr. Mirror to the American past, A Survey of American Genre Painting: 1750-1900. Greenwich, CT: New York Graphic Society, 1973.