Editor's note: The following essay was published in Resource Library on October 3, 2014 with permission of the New Britain Museum of American Art. If you have questions or comments regarding the text, please contact the New Britain Museum of American Art directly through either this phone number or web address:
Nelson Augustus Moore
by Todd and Marenda Stitzer
Born in August 1824, to Roswell and Lucy Allen Moore, Nelson Augustus Moore grew up in a house built by his father on High Road in Kensington, Connecticut. Roswell Moore, among other entrepreneurial pursuits, formed the first company to produce and effectively market hydraulic cement. The Moore family had deep roots in the state, having settled here in the 17th century.
From an early age, Nelson demonstrated a precocious interest in art. A seminal moment occurred in 1842 when he assisted portraitist Milo Hotchkiss (1802-1874) in painting a life study of a child killed in an accident. It is said that after this experience Moore resolved to further his career as an artist. At 21, Moore was employed for one year by the New Haven & Hartford Railroad. Simultaneously, he painted portraits without charge of his coworkers in the attic of the Berlin station.
With his father's encouragement, Moore wrote to Asher Brown Durand (1796-1886), one of the founders of the Hudson River School and a man of enormous influence in art circles of his day. On Durand's advice, Moore moved to New York City and began studying drawing with Thomas S. Cummings (1804-1894) and painting under Daniel Huntington (1816-1906), President of the National Academy of Design and himself a student of Samuel F. B. Morse (1791-1872) and Henry Inman (1801-1846), two of the leading portrait painters of the 19th century.
Moore returned to Kensington in 1850 to formally launch his career as an artist. One of his first occupations included teaching drawing at the New Britain Normal School. In 1853, Moore produced his earliest recorded painting, Housatonic River Indians, which is owned by a Moore descendant. That same year, Moore married Ann Maria Pickett (1832-1909) of Morris, Connecticut. The Moores had four children. Edwin Augustus (1858-1926) became an established animal and figure painter; Ellen Maria (1861-1934) became an accomplished miniaturist; Ethelbert Allen (1864-1956), though a manufacturer by profession, painted as a hobby, and Alanson Jasper Pickett (1867-1903) became a farmer. Ethelbert Allen became president and chairman of the board of The Stanley Works, a leading New Britain industrial concern, now Stanley Black & Decker, a Fortune 500 provider of hand tools, power tools, security solutions and recognized global leader.
In 1854, Moore and his brother Roswell Allen Moore (1832-1907) opened Connecticut's first commercially successful daguerreotype studio in New Britain. The photographic images he created not only refined his sense of observation, but instilled in him a desire to capture fleeting, transient moments through painting. Exposure to the unforgiving camera trained his eye to observe and record the most minute details around him on canvas. Ultimately, Moore employed both photography and painting to capture scenes of his beloved home, Kensington, Connecticut, where the Moore family lived and has continued to flourish to this day. Included in the exhibition are several of the earliest photographs taken in Connecticut by the Moores, which were given to the New Britain Museum of American Art by Charles Rathbone, a descendant of Nelson Augustus Moore.
By the mid-1860s, Moore also began to divide his time between Kensington, Lake George in the Adirondacks, and New York City and became increasingly determined to devote his full-time efforts to landscape painting. On November 29, 1869, Moore organized a one-man exhibition of 20 paintings at the New Britain Institute, the parent organization of the New Britain Museum of American Art, which was founded in 1903, just after his death.
As an artist, Moore exemplified the ideals of the first truly American school of painting, yet developed them in a unique and sensitive manner. Influenced by the Romantic belief in the spiritual solace offered by nature, the Hudson River School revered the beauty of the unspoiled natural world. For many of them, the hand of the Almighty was evident in the unsullied fields, hills and streams of New England and New York. Generations of settlers emigrated from the Old World to the New because land was available and the promise of a new Eden inspired them to come to America. While many of the Hudson River School's second generation of landscape painters went to the far ends of the earth seeking inspiration, Moore remained in New England and New York. Even though the nearby city of New Britain was transformed into a major industrial center during the course of his long life, Moore chose to ignore what was marring the once pristine fields.
Faithful representation of nature was the hallmark of the Hudson River School, but within that ideal artists sought different avenues of expression. Moore was a realist in the tradition of other late 19th century landscape painters, who emphasized an almost scientific fidelity to what he observed. Moore expanded his appreciation of nature on a smaller scale, eschewing the horizontal, sometimes grandiose format of his contemporaries in favor of a smaller, more intimate scale. He readily revealed his brush work in careful, almost naïve, delineations of individual forms, as he firmly believed that "it is exceedingly important that a painting should be freely handled, for it adds greatly to its merits that it was worked with a decided touch..." Crafted in subtle tones, his compositions revealed a spirit sensitive to the idyllic, rural charm around him.
Moore's death in 1902 occurred several decades after the gradual decline in the popularity of the Hudson River School style. The Tonalist School and European Impressionists had taken the country by storm. It would be three decades before the Macbeth Gallery in New York exhibited 20 of Moore's work in 1934, sparking a revival of interest in his 19th century landscape paintings. Fortunately, today there is a widespread appreciation of both Moore and the entire Hudson River School.
Nelson Augustus Moore felt no need to travel vast distances in search of ever more grandiose, spectacular vistas. He took a particular delight in the peaceful harmony of the local Connecticut countryside. Exploring the myriad seasons and moods of his native New England, he celebrated the understated, humble charm of his own backyard. A faithful member of the Hudson River School at heart, Moore remained untouched by its more dramatic interpretations, crafting instead works that were local, personal, "honest American," and humble. Kensington's Mooreland Hill and its environs provided ample proof that he lived in a new Eden.
The publications on which this essay draws are the following: Ellen Fletcher, Nelson Augustus Moore (1824-1902). Moore Picture Trust, 1994.; Vose Galleries of Boston, Inc., Nelson Augustus Moore (1824-1902). Nov. 1990.
About the authors
Todd and Marenda Stitzer, residents of Kensington, Connecticut, are notable collectors of the works of Nelson Augustus Moore. Mr. Stitzer was elected Chairman of the New Britain Museum of American Art Board in 2013. Mrs. Stitzer serves on the Museum's Council of Advisors.
All collectors are motivated by an appreciation of aesthetics or the achievements of particular artists who have inspired them. In our case, there was also an element of romance about how we came to own the paintings on display in the exhibition Nelson Augustus Moore: Connecticut Water, Hills and Sky at the New Britain Museum of American Art. The discovery of the ideal life partner, a great family home, and our appreciation for one of Connecticut's leading artists of the 19th-century are all remarkably intertwined in our story.
As a young man, Todd was employed as the tennis coach at the Shuttle Meadow Country Club. In 1976, on the Fourth of July, to celebrate the bicentennial of the founding of the American republic, he invited Marenda Brown, a beautiful young woman whose parents were members of the club, to take a walk that evening to view the fireworks. The highest elevation in the neighborhood was Mooreland Hill and from this perspective, we enjoyed the pyrotechnics against the backdrop of the sweeping Metacomet Ridge to the south. As we approached a Tudor-style mansion, which occupied the summit of the hill, Todd was struck by the attractiveness of the house and the beauty of the location. He turned to Marenda and said, "Someday I am going to buy this house." Our unspoken but palpable feelings were that hopefully we would live there together. Subsequently, we did marry, had two children, and lived in New York, New Britain, Texas and Great Britain. However, whenever we returned to Kensington we would drive up Mooreland Road to see "the house." When it went on the market, we purchased the property, which we have painstakingly restored and enjoyed ever since.
Mooreland Hill was named after the Moore family, early settlers of the Kensington section of Berlin, Connecticut. The most prominent member of the family was Nelson Augustus Moore (1824-1902), one of the most successful and respected Connecticut artists of the second half of the 19th century. Moore was a leading painter of the second generation of the Hudson River School, founded by Thomas Cole (1801-1848). He also was the first person to establish a photographic practice in New Britain and later in Hartford, Connecticut.
Marenda and I became increasingly aware of the excellence of Moore's landscape paintings and received information on the artist from Jeff Cooley, the Old Lyme dealer specializing in American art. We resolved to commission him to acquire as many of the paintings as possible executed by Moore from very near where our house stands. We were able to collect what art historians consider Moore's most ambitious and largest topographical masterworks. We now own thirteen Nelson Augustus Moore paintings and one landscape by his son, Edwin Augustus (1858-1926). We believe that the works are both sensitively created and express the joy Moore felt when observing nature from the nearby perspectives with which he was so intimately familiar. Thus, when we study our collection, we can immediately compare many of the vantage points of the artist from the view out our window, experiencing a heightened appreciation of our environment. Over the decades, we have come to appreciate Moore's skill as an artist, as we have lived with his landscapes on a day-by-day basis. After many years of living in a wide variety of different places, we are most grateful to be in our house on Mooreland Hill and to live with the paintings of such an inspired and exceptional artist.
We want to express our gratitude to Dr. Douglas Hyland for providing this opportunity to display our collection at the New Britain Museum of American Art and we wish to commend the entire staff for their professional and efficient organization of the exhibition. Establishing our Nelson Augustus Moore collection has been a labor of love. We are pleased to have an opportunity to share our paintings with the many thousands of visitors to the Museum this fall.
Todd and Marenda Stitzer
About the exhibition
The New Britain Museum of American Art is presenting the first exhibition of Nelson Augustus Moore in nearly two decades, Nelson Augustus Moore: Connecticut Water, Hills, and Sky, from the collection of Todd and Marenda Stitzer on view from September 20, 2014 through January 11, 2015. This exhibition features paintings and photographs by Moore, a 19th-century American landscape artist who embraced both mediums to capture his beloved hometown of Kensington, Connecticut. Moore's photographs of central Connecticut are placed next to contemporary images of the vistas Moore depicted, showing a compare and contrast of the artist's beloved land over time.
Thirteen of the paintings on display have been generously loaned by Todd and Marenda Stitzer, who have amassed the largest and most comprehensive collection of the artist's work. For Todd and Marenda, the discovery of the ideal life partner, a great family home, and appreciation for one of Connecticut's leading artists of the 19th century are all remarkably intertwined. The couple's home in Kensington, Connecticut -- Hillside Cottage -- sits near the top of Mooreland Hill on land once owned by the Moores. Upon learning that Nelson Augustus Moore was a member of this illustrious family and that he painted the very views seen from their windows, the couple immediately decided to collect the best of the artist's work.
Nelson Augustus Moore was born in 1824 in Kensington, Connecticut. With his father's support, Moore studied art in New York City and later returned to Connecticut to open the first commercial daguerreotype business in the state with his brother. Throughout the remainder of his life, Moore painted idyllic landscapes of New England and the Lake George area, where he spent his summers.
The Museum is indebted to both Todd and Marenda Stitzer's generosity and sagacity. In October 2013, Todd was elected Chairman of the Museum Board and Marenda began serving on the Museum's Council of Advisors. An opening reception is scheduled for Sunday, October 12, 2104 from 2-5 p.m. with remarks by the Stitzers at 2:45 p.m.
(above: Nelson Augustus Moore (1824 - 1902), The Path Home, 1862, Oil on Canvas, 54 x 38 inches. Collection of Todd and Marenda Stitzer)
Resource Library editor's note
The above essay was published in Resource Library on October 3, 2014 with permission of the New Britain Museum of American Art, granted to TFAO on September 30, 2014.
Resource Library wishes to extend appreciation to Dr. Douglas Hyland, Director, and Emily Misencik, Assistant to the Director, New Britain Museum of American Art for their help concerning permission for publishing the above essay and collectors' statement.
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