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Creating a World on Paper

Harry Fenn's Career in Art

Sue Rainey

Publication Year: 2013

Harry Fenn was one of the most skilled and successful illustrators in the United States in the latter half of the nineteenth century, a time when illustrated periodicals and books were the primary means of sharing visual images. Fenn’s work fostered pride in America’s scenic landscapes and urban centers, informed a curious public about foreign lands, and promoted appreciation of printed pictures as artworks for a growing middle class. Arriving in New York from London in 1857 as a young wood engraver, Fenn soon forged a career in illustration. His tiny black-and-white wood engravings for Whittier’s Snow-Bound (1868) surprised critics with their power, and his bold, innovative compositions for Picturesque America (1872–74) were enormously popular and expanded the field for illustrators and publishers. In the 1880s and ’90s, his illustrations appeared in many of the finest magazines and newspapers, depicting the places and events that interested the public—from post–Civil War national reconciliation to the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893 to the beginnings of imperialism in the Spanish-American War. This handsomely designed volume documents Fenn’s prolific career from the 1860s until his death in 1911. Sue Rainey also recounts his adventurous sketching trips in the western United States, Europe, and the Middle East, which enhanced his reputation for depicting far-flung places at a time when the nation was taking a more prominent role on the world stage.

Published by: University of Massachusetts Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. i-vi

Table of Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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Preface

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pp. ix-xiv

My interest in Harry Fenn dates back almost thirty years, to when I realized that many of the most attractive nineteenth-century prints of American scenery and cities offered in print shops were his compositions, often taken from disbound copies of the two-volume Picturesque America. The luminosity of that book’s steel engravings and the variety and charm of its wood engravings...

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1. Early Life in England and New York

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pp. 1-22

Harry Fenn was a conspicuous presence in the world of American art in the latter half of the nineteenth century. In this period before photographs could be printed on the same page as type, a wide public looked to him and his colleagues for depictions of scenery, cities, and social and political life reproduced ...

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2. Gaining Recognition as an Illustrator and Watercolor Painter

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pp. 23-48

Fenn was able to fulfill his intention to abandon wood engraving and establish himself as a sought-after illustrator in the last years of the Civil War and the period immediately after. At this time, many Americans endeavored to find solace for their grief, honor the lost, lay animosities to rest, and focus attention on the reunited ...

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3. Poetry and Picturesque America

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pp. 49-106

Fenn continued to devote most of his time to preparing designs for illustrations, a surer means of supporting his growing family than completing paintings that might or might not sell. His projects in the late 1860s and early 1870s, commissioned by various publishers, ranged from one page for a periodical to hundreds of images ...

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4. Years Abroad—Picturesque Europe and Picturesque Palestine

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pp. 107-158

From 1873 to 1881 Fenn lived abroad and traveled as the quintessential artist in search of the picturesque. Soon after Appleton began publishing Picturesque America in parts in mid-1872, it became clear that the book’s combination of text and images was a winning formula. In fact, it was so successful that the firm involved Fenn in two successors—...

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5. New Clients, New Technologies, and a New Home—The 1880s

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pp. 159-216

As Fenn worked to complete his illustrations for Picturesque Palestine and his daughter Hilda neared her first birthday, the family returned to the United States. Although a second transatlantic move must have been difficult and their loyalties divided between England and America, Fenn apparently anticipated many commissions ...

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6. Challenges and Triumphs—The 1890s and Beyond

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pp. 217-280

As the end of the nineteenth century approached, the United States was greatly changed since Fenn’s arrival in 1857. It was now one of the most prosperous and powerful nations on earth. Its population of more than seventy million, which stretched from coast to coast, was in closer contact than ever before thanks...

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7. Continuity and Change—1900–1911, and an Assessment

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pp. 281-308

The last decade of Harry Fenn’s life coincided with the first decade of the twentieth century, with its accelerated pace of innovation and growth in communications, transportation, and industry. Fashions in the art world and in illustrated publications continued to change in ways that positioned Fenn among ...

Appendix 1: Additional Illustrations by Harry Fenn

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pp. 309-324

Appendix 2: Harry Fenn’s Works Included in Exhibitions

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pp. 325-330

Notes

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pp. 331-380

Index

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pp. 381-392

About the Author, Back Cover

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pp. 393-BC


E-ISBN-13: 9781613762226
E-ISBN-10: 1613762224
Print-ISBN-13: 9781558499799
Print-ISBN-10: 1558499792

Page Count: 516
Illustrations: 43 color illus., 150 b&w illus.
Publication Year: 2013

Series Title: Studies in Print Culture and the History of the Book

Research Areas

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Subject Headings

  • Fenn, Harry, 1838-1911.
  • Artists -- United States -- Biography.
  • Fenn, Harry, 1838-1911 -- Criticism and interpretation.
  • Arts and society -- United States -- History -- 19th century.
  • Arts and society -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
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