A painter of portraits, landscapes and figure subjects, George Fuller was widely acclaimed for his poetic, mood-filled visions of nature. Born in Deerfield, Massachusetts, Fuller spent his boyhood years on his family's farm. In 1837, while traveling with a railway survey team headed for Illinois, he met the noted sculptor Henry Kirke Brown, who influenced his decision to pursue an artistic career and later became his teacher. After two years in the West, Fuller returned to Deerfield to complete his education. In 1840 he purchased a camera, with the intention of working as a daguerrotypist; however a year later, he began painting portraits in oil, accompanying his half-brother, Augustus Fuller, a miniaturist and portrait painter, throughout western New York. During this period, he spent nine months studying with Brown in Albany.
By the end of 1842, Fuller had settled in Boston, where he studied the work of Washington Allston, America's first romantic painter, and continued his training at the Boston Artists Association. Five years later he moved to New York. He quickly immersed himself in local art life, exhibiting at the American Art-Union and at the National Academy of Design. He also made three extended trips to the South, painting portraits as well as depicting the labors, leisures and rituals of black slaves. In 1860 he made his first voyage to Europe, accompanied by the artist-critic William J. Stillman, a founder and co-editor of the art journal, theCrayon. In addition to visiting England, where he met the Pre-Raphaelite painters Dante Gabriel Rossetti and William Holman Hunt, Fuller also traveled to France, Italy, Holland, Belgium, and Germany. He also spent time in Switzerland, where he was introduced to John Ruskin. Most importantly, this trip gave Fuller the opportunity to study the work of the Old Masters. He was particularly inspired by the painterly renderings of Rembrandt, Titian and Velasquez. Fuller also familiarized himself with the work of many contemporary artists, including J.M.W. Turner, Camille Corot and J.-F. Millet.
Returning to America in 1861, Fuller settled on the family farm in Deerfield. For the next fifteen years, he divided his time between farming and painting. It was during this period that he developed his mature style, grounded in the art of Allston, Millet, William Morris Hunt and the French Barbizon tradition. In contrast to the descriptive realism that still dominated much of American art, Fuller's evocative renderings of female figures placed in ambiguous settings epitomized the cosmopolitan spirit of the day and the trend towards a more suggestive mode of painting. Hailed by many critics as a native genius, Fuller was a great favorite of the New England literati, his wistful renderings inviting frequent comparisons to those of Millet and Corot.
George Fuller's work can be found in major public collections throughout the United States, including the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; and the Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.
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