Victor de Grailly (1804–1889)
European painter of the American landscape.
By Nina Sangimino
V. Suggested Resources
Little is known about the life of French artist Victor de Grailly, famous for his Hudson River School-style landscapes of the United States. Born in France in 1804, he studied with neo-classical painter Jean Victor Bertin, who also mentored the great Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot.
Surprisingly, it is unlikely that de Grailly ever traveled to America. Instead, he drew inspiration from the 1840 London publication American Scenery, which contained detailed descriptions of important landmarks and tourist destinations in America accompanied by engravings after the artist William Henry Bartlett. While many painters capitalized on the popular views in American Scenery, de Grailly was especially successful, evidenced by the number of his scenes in American collections. As stated by Catherine H. Campbell, “Though there is no reason to think that de Grailly ever left his native country, such a number of the American views after Bartlett are in this country, often several representations of the same scene, that one wonders whether there was an outlet for his work in the United States.” While his more academic, Romantic paintings were exhibited at the Paris Salons, he employed a workshop of artists to help him produce his commercially popular landscapes, many of which he produced in multiples. de Grailly has been said to have two careers: one as a Salon artist, and one as a businessman focused on the popular market. His Hudson River School work was exhibited in various locations throughout the United States between 1845 and 1858, such as Baltimore, Charleston, and New York.
Few of his works are signed, but confident attributions can be made based on his trademark style and technique. He typically utilized strong colors and depicted bright, clear skies with voluminous clouds. He is also recognized for a strong use of highlights, especially on clothing and trees, and a stippling technique to portray light on foliage.
Baltimore Museum of Art, MD
Brooklyn Museum, NY
Farnsworth Museum of Art, ME
Mead Art Museum at Amherst College, MA
Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY
New-York Historical Society, NY
Smith College Museum of Art, MA
The White House, Washington, DC
West Point Museum, NY
1830–90 Paris Salon medals 1840, 1844
IV. Suggested Resources
Arcadian Vales: Views of the Connecticut River Valley. Springfield, Massachusetts: The Springfield Library and Museums Association for the George Walter Vincent Smith Art Museum, 1981.
Banks, William Nathaniel. “The French Painter Victor de Grailly and the Production of American Views.” Antiques 106 (July 1974): 88–90.
Cambell, Catherine H. New Hampshire Scenery: A Dictionary of Nineteenth-Century Artists of New Hampshire Mountain Landscapes. Canaan, New Hampshire: New Hampshire Historical Society, 1985.
Cowdrey, Mary Bartlett. “William Henry Bartlett and the American Scene.” New York History 12 (Oct. 1941): 398.
Driscoll, John. All That is Glorious around Us: Paintings from the Hudson River School. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 1997, 56.
Sears, Clara Endicott. Highlights among the Hudson River Artists. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, Co., 1947.
1. Catherine H. Campbell, New Hampshire Scenery: A Dictionary of Nineteenth-Century Artists of New Hampshire Mountain Landscapes (Canaan, New Hampshire: New Hampshire Historical Society, 1985), 47.
2. Sheree Jaros, Arcadian Vales: Views of the Connecticut River Valley (Springfield, MA: The Springfield Library and Museums Association for the George Walter Vincent Smith Art Museum, 1981), 73.
3. John Driscoll, All That is Glorious around Us: Paintings from the Hudson River School (Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 1997), 56.