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Elihu Vedder & Giovanni Costa

Elihu Vedder (February 26, 1836 – January 29, 1923) was an American symbolist painter, book illustrator, and poet, born in New York City. He first visited Italy from 1858 until 1860, becoming deeply emotionally attached to fellow painter Giovanni Costa (15 October 1826 – 31 January 1903). Their idyllic trips through the Italian countryside were cut short because Vedder's father cut off his financial allowance. (P: William Kurtz (1833–1904). Elihu Vedder, American painter and poet, circa 1870)

In 1860, in Florence, Giovanni Costa became friend with Elihu Vedder, and the two together went to Volterra for a month in the summer to study real life paintings, along with American painter Thomas Hiram Hotchkiss (1837-1869). In August, Costa had to go back to Livorno to be the second on a duel to Stanislao Mazzoni.

In 1867, Costa introduced William Blake Richmond (1842-1912) to Elihu Vedder, who, at the time, had a study in Via Margutta, 33, like Costa. Beginning of March, Costa founded the Centro d’Insurrezione (Insurrection Center), financed with his own means, in this way depleting his father's inheritance. Already in February, Richmond helped him sending along Costa's paintings to Frederic Leighton, who promised to sell them in England.

In 1874, Costa and Vedder spent the summer together, paintings at Porto d'Anzio. Apparently the last time Costa met Vedder was in 1881 when Costa and Edward Blount Smith visited Vedder and his wife in Rome.


The Water Nymph


Hallway of the Reading Room of the Washington Library of Congress
Elihu Vedder was an American symbolist painter, book illustrator, and poet, born in New York City. He first visited Italy from 1858 until 1860, becoming deeply emotionally attached to fellow painter Giovanni Costa. Their idyllic trips through the Italian countryside were cut short because Vedder's father cut off his financial allowance. They met the first time in the summer of 1860, in Florence, and the last time in 1881 when Costa and Edward Blount Smith visited Vedder and his wife in Rome.


The Morning Glory, 1899


Soul in Bondage, 1891-1892


Roman Model Posing


Head of Minerva

Vedder is best known for his fifty-five illustrations for Edward FitzGerald's translation of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam (deluxe edition, published by Houghton Mifflin).

Elihu Vedder was born February 26, 1836 in New York City, the son of Dr. Elihu Vedder Sr. and Elizabeth Vedder. His parents were cousins. His father, a dentist, decided to try his luck in Cuba, and this had a profound impact on Elihu Jr.'s childhood. The remainder of his childhood was spent between his maternal grandfather Alexander Vedder's house in Schenectady and a boarding school. His mother supported his goals to be an artist while his father reluctantly assented, convinced that his son should try a different occupation. His brother, Dr. Alexander Madison Vedder, was a Navy surgeon who witnessed the transformation of Japan into a modern culture while he was stationed there.

Vedder trained in New York City with Tompkins H. Matteson, then in Paris with François-Édouard Picot. Finally, he completed his studies in Italy - where he was strongly influenced not only by Italian Renaissance work but also by the modern Macchiaioli painters and the living Italian landscape.

Vedder returned to the USA, penniless, during the American Civil War, and made a small living by undertaking commercial illustrations. He was involved in the bohemian 'Pfaff's' coffee house group, and painted some of his most memorable paintings notable for their visionary nature, romantic imagery and often Oriental influences. Paintings of this time include 'The Roc's Egg', 'The Fisherman and the Genii' and one of his most famous works, 'Lair of the Sea Serpent.' In the USA he sought out and became friends with Walt Whitman, Herman Melville and William Morris Hunt. Vedder became a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1865.

At the end of the Civil War, he left America to live in Italy. He married Caroline Rosekrans on July 13, 1869 in Glen Falls, New York. Elihu Vedder and his wife had four children, only two of whom survived. His daughter Anita Herriman Vedder played a vital role in handling the business of her father, who was notorious for his general aloofness towards details. Elihu's son Enoch Rosekrans Vedder was a promising architect who married jewelry designer Angela Reston. Enoch died while visiting his parents in Italy on April 2, 1916. Elihu had a home in Rome and - after the financial success of his 1884Rubaiyat work - on the Isle of Capri, then a haven for male aesthetes.

Vedder visited England many times, and was influenced by the Pre-Raphaelites, and was a friend of Simeon Solomon. He was also influenced by the work of English and Irish mystics such as William Blake and William Butler Yeats. In 1890 Vedder helped establish the In Arte Libertas group in Italy.

Tiffany commissioned him to design glassware, mosaics and statuettes for the company. He decorated the hallway of the Reading Room of the Washington Library of Congress, and his mural paintings can still be seen there.

Vedder occasionally returned to the United States, but lived only in Italy from 1906 until his death on January 29, 1923. He is buried in the Protestant Cemetery, Rome.

In 2008, the Smithsonian American Art Museum organized an exhibition of Vedder's Rubaiyat illustrations that toured several museums, including the Phoenix Art Museum.

Source: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elihu_Vedder

Giovanni Costa "Nino" (Rome, 1826 - Marina di Pisa, January 31, 1903) was an Italian painter. (P: Frederic Leighton (1830–1896). Portrait of Professor Giovanni Costa, 1878, now in the Leighton House Museum, London)

Exponent of the 19th century Roman painting world, Giovanni Costa has contributed to the spread of naturalistic ideas even among members of the artistic movement of the Macchiaioli. Costa is also remembered for having actively participated in the Garibaldi campaigns of 1848-49 and 1859.

Nino Costa was born in Rome in 1826: his father is a representative of the Roman middle class.

During youth he receives a classical education, he is fascinated by the art of the Middle Ages and Renaissance, and he dedicated himself to painting by attending, always in his hometown, Rome, in 1848, the Camuccini study's, that of Coghetti and finally that of Podesti and Clerici.

However, he has a penchant for nature and painting from life that moves him away from these artists, intrinsically linked to the neo-classical and romantic experiences.


La Ninfa nel bosco


Donne che caricano legna a Porto d'Anzio


Dormono di giorno per pescare di notte

Strong supporter of a national unit, Nino Costa participated in the first war of independence with Garibaldi. In the Roman Republic of 1849 he is a municipal councilor. At the fall of the Republic he must escape.

After the Restoration, between 1850 and 1851, he traveled to Naples: here he probably knows the results of the Posillipo school that hone his natural propensity for realistic representation of the landscape.

In these years he begins to stay in Ariccia where he frequented some foreign artists: the Nazarenes as Overbeck and Cornelius, with whom he shares a passion for ancient art, finding in them a similar recognition of Quattrocentismo, and, to accentuate a trend that is idealistic moving to Symbolist, and which will be accentuated towards the end of the century, even Boecklin and Oswald Achenbach.

From this period the first English acquitances: in 1852 he meets George Mason, in whose company he painted en plein air in the Roman countryside, and in 1853 he knows Frederick Leighton. Probably they are to inform the Roman artist on the ideas of Ruskin, who had to appear congenial to Costa whose pictorial research was based on the revision of the real through the "feeling of thought."

He concludes the training period with "Donne che caricano legna a Porto d'Anzio" (women who load firewood to Port of Anzio), 1852, exhibited in 1856 at the Promotrice of Rome, in 1861 a the First National Exhibition of Florence, and in 1862 at the Paris Salon.

His contacts with foreign artists of symbolist trends are increasing between 1850 and 1867: he frequents Boecklin, Emile David Mason, Leighton, and he enters into relations with the group of Caffè Michelangelo. He knows well the Macchiaioli, becoming a friend of Cabianca, De Tivoli, Banti, Fattori.

Between 1855 and 1856 the friendship with the Swiss Emile David makes him aware of the work of Corot and the barbizonniers, and of English Charles Coleman, which finally convinces him to abandon the historical subjects.

Between 1858 and 1860 the journey in the Italian countryside with his friend American painter Elihu Vedder, is abruptly interrupted by the lack of money of his friend, caused by the truncation of the funding that Vedder received from his father.

In 1861 he participated in the Florentine exhibition with "Donne che imbarcano la legna ad Anzio". He travels a lot: he is in London where through Leighton he knows Burne-Jones and Watts, in Paris, where in 1862 he exhibited at the Salon and receives favorable appreciations by Corot, Descamps, Troyon; the same thing is repeated in 1865.

He maintains contacts in Florence with the critic and defender of the Macchiaioli Hammers and friends English Howard, Richmond, Leighton.

From 1856 the English environment starts to look at him with favor: Leighton bought the painting "Dormono di giorno per pescare di notte" (They sleep during the day to fish at night), replicated in large a few years later in 1890 and exhibited at the New Gallery in London.

From this period the creative process of Costa extends over time, he begins works that concludes long time after, time needed to mature the contents of its idealistic search for perfection. From this trend, ultimately spiritual, comes his most famous work, "La Ninfa nel bosco" (The nymph in the woods), which began in 1863 and finished twenty years later; it sums up in an inner journey that leads to the symbolist painting.

In 1859 he returns to fight for Italian independence, enlisting in the Piedmontese Royal Army.

At the end of the same year back in Florence, which has become a meeting place of many patriots after the departure of Napoleon III, in the intention to proceed with the policy of spontaneous unification of the peninsula. But Florence is also the center of art and here Costa plays a significant role in the circle of the Caffè Michelangelo. He especially influences Giovanni Fattori, and he is to convince young people to abandon the Macchiaioli historical subjects and devote himself to painting from life, as well as the introduction of innovative markedly longitudinal format.

Between 1861 and 1862 he takes a first trip to Paris, where he received the praise of Troyon, Gleyre, Ricard Hébert and Corot for "Donne che caricano legna a Porto d'Anzio", exhibited at the Salon. He exhibited also at the Salon des Refusés, a small study from life that is immediately sold and, in private, he shows at friends his French studies from the real, appreciated also by Messonier. In Paris he attended Théophile Gautier, Charles Baudelaire and Eduard Bertin, deepening his tendency to symbolism that he communicates to the other Italians, thanks to his ability to communicate new ideas and fight for them.

In 1862, during a short stay in London he knows Burne Jones, through which he probably has a way to deepen his knowledge of the ideas of Ruskin on art. In 1863 he reaches Mason in the Staffordshire and he paints in the English countryside, undergoing the charm of bucolic and sentimental themes so dear to his friend. In his company he then goes to London and Paris, and once alone, he goes for the area of Fontainebleau, where he takes inspiration for "La ninfa nel bosco", his most famous painting. Returning to Florence he approaches Banti and Cabianca and attended the estate of Diego Martelli at Castiglioncello, approaching the art of Abbati.

In the sixties he alternates Florentine residences to Roman stays, during which, between 1865 and 1866, he meets George Howard. This latter, became Lord Carlisle, will support the good fortune of Costa in England, and will become one of his major collectors.

In 1867 he settled in Florence again, following the defeat of Mentana, and he works in Livorno, Castiglioncello and Bocca d'Arno.

In 1870, fighting for the liberation of Rome, he participates in entry into Rome of the bersaglieri, and since then he actively participates in the political life, he is part of the triumvirate, and was elected alderman of Trastevere.

He remains, however, a rebellious character. He resumes the artistic activity and enters into controversy with the establishment against which he reacts by organizing and participating in numerous foundations of artistic groups. In 1875 he was among the founders of the Golden Club, in 1878 the Circolo degli Italiani, in 1883 the Scuola Etrusca, antecedent of In Arte Libertas.

He is the most authoritative landscape painter and critic among the rebels of the Roman environment. According to him it was necessary to paint with the same means of true. And in the case "insufficienza degli ordinari sistemi tecnici procede per sue vie proprie, sovrapponendo colori a colori secondo le leggi scrutate da lui nel vero" (of lack of the standard technical systems, he proceeds in his own ways, overlapping colors to colors according to the laws scrutinized by him in the true).

His art, if it remains almost unknown or deliberately ignored by the righteousness of the Italian public, instead finds acclaim and success in English-speaking environment. Costa exhibited in 1869 at the Royal Academy in London; since 1877 he participates in the activities of the Grosvenor Gallery, in 1882 he gets huge success with audiences and critics with the exhibition of sixty-eight paintings at the Fine Art Society.

Between 1883 and 1884 he founded the Scuola Etrusca with British friends and abandons the Grosvenor Gallery to exhibit at the New Gallery.

In 1887 he joined the group In Arte Libertas, of which he is one of the most famous voices, and participates in exhibitions regularly organized by the company until 1902.

In 1897 "Il risveglio della natura" (The awakening of nature) was acquired by the National Gallery of British Art, donated by a fundraiser sponsored by English friends and that was destroyed during World War II.

Nino Costa died on January 31, 1903, in Marina di Pisa. He is buried at the Cemetery of Verano in Rome.

Further Readings:

Elihu Vedder: Voyage on the Nile by Laura Vookles, Linda Ferber, Floyd Lattin and Michael Botwinick
Perfect Paperback: 113 pages
Publisher: Hudson River Museum (September 24, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0943651409
ISBN-13: 978-0943651408
Amazon: Elihu Vedder: Voyage on the Nile

American painter Elihu Vedder journed up the Nile from December 1889 to April 1890 and recorded his fascination with Egypt's panoramas in artwork presented for the first time in this exhibition organized by the Hudson River Museum.

In the late 19th century Egypt beckoned to Americans as a stop on the Grand Tour. Wealthy tourists and artists marveled at its wondrous pyramids and temples and the desolate beauty of a desert landscape juxtaposed with the great Nile River. The exotic fascinated Elihu Vedder, an American artist, too, and from winter to spring in 1890, he traveled from Cairo to Wadi Halfa, and back, the guest of George F. Corliss of the famous Corliss Engine Company in Providence, Rhode Island. In those five months, he drew and painted the Nile s panoramas of sand, cliffs and ancient ruins, often aboard a rented dahabeya, a traditional Egyptian houseboat.

The Hudson River Museum organized Voyage on the Nile, an exhibition of forty of Vedder s Nile Journey artworks on view for the first time. Private collectors, art galleries, and major museums lent work for this exhibition, which is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue, with essays, by Linda Ferber, Senior Art Historian and Museum Director Emerita, New-York Historical Society; Egyptologist Floyd Lattin; and, Laura Vookles, the Museum s Chief Curator of Collections.

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