Henry Prellwitz (1865-1940)
Henry Prellwitz spent much of his career in New York City, where he was active as a landscape and figure painter as well as a teacher and art administrator. At various times during his career, Prellwitz was affiliated with artists colonies in Giverny, France, and in Cornish, New Hampshire. He also lived and worked in Peconic, Long Island for many years.
Prellwitz was born in New York City in 1865. After attending New York's City College from 1879 until 1882, he went on to study at the Art Students League, working under Thomas W. Dewing until 1887.
In the autumn of 1887 Prellwitz went to Paris, attending classes at the Académie Julian under Jean-Paul Laurens from 1887 until 1889. In May of 1889, he spent a few days in Giverny, the Anglo-American art colony located on the Seine about forty miles northwest of Paris. He returned to Giverny in late June, remaining there for about two months, and made subsequent visits in late September and late December, accompanied on both occasions by his friend and fellow artists, William Howard Hart and William Rothenstein. He made a final trip to Giverny in May 1890. Although Prellwitz is known to have painted en plein air during these visits, experimenting with the tenets of Impressionism, none of his Giverny work has surfaced. In the autumn of 1889, Prellwitz is known to have visited Spain, along with Hart and the Boston-born painter, Philip Leslie Hale.
Prellwitz established his studio in New York City in the summer or fall of 1890. In October of 1894, he married the painter Edith Mitchill (1865-1944). During that same year, he was appointed director of the Art Students League, an important administrative position that he retained until 1898. Prellwitz also taught classes at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn.
In 1891, Prellwitz began spending his summers in Cornish, New Hampshire, a popular gathering place for painters and sculptors from Manhattan, including his former teacher, Thomas W. Dewing, and his friend, William Howard Hart. In 1895, he built a small cottage there, dubbed "Prellwitz's Shanty," not far from the homes of Dewing and the sculptor, Augustus Saint-Gaudens. Prellwitz subsequently painted a number of Cornish landscapes, including many views of Mount Ascutney.
After its destruction by fire in 1898, Prellwitz and his wife rented a summer house in Peconic, Long Island, where they joined many of their artist friends such as Irving Wiles and Edward August Bell. A year later, they bought a house in Peconic which they eventually converted into a studio. In 1911 Prellwitz purchased an early nineteenth century house which he then had transported to land he purchased on Indian Neck, a promitory jutting into Peconic Bay. Three years later, after adding two studios to the house, Prellwitz and his wife became year-round residents of Long Island. Prellwitz subsequently became one of the few artists to depict Long Island during the winter. After 1928, Prellwitz and his wife lived in an apartment in a Turtle Bay cooperative on East 41st Street.
Prellwitz played a lively role in New York art life at the turn of the century, exhibiting his paintings at the Society of American Artists and at the National Academy of Design. He won numerous awards and prizes, including the National Academy's Third Hallgarten prize (1893) and its Clarke prize (1907). He also received a bronze medal at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo (1901) and a silver medal at the St. Louis Exposition (1904). Prellwitz was elected an associate of the National Academy in 1906 and an academician in 1912. As the Academy's treasurer from 1929 until 1940, Prellwitz was praised for his "fidelity to duty" and his "firmness in the conviction of right ... tempered with kindness, justice and respect for the feelings of others." Prellwitz was also affiliated with the Century Club, the Salmagundi Club and the American Federation of Arts.
Henry Prellwitz died in East Greenwich, Rhode Island in 1940. His paintings are represented in numerous public collections throughout the northeast, including the National Academy of Design in New York City and the Heckscher Museum in Huntington, New York.
ŠThe essay herein is the property of Spanierman Gallery and is copyrighted by Spanierman Gallery and may not be reproduced in whole or in part, without written permission from Spanierman Gallery nor shown or communicated to anyone without due credit being given to Spanierman Gallery.
Edith Mitchill Prellwitz (1864-1944)
Among the talented women artists who rose to prominence during the late nineteenth century, Edith Prellwitz enjoyed a long and successful career as a painter, winning many awards and honors for her figure subjects and landscapes.
Born Edith Mitchill in South Orange, New Jersey, the artist was the daughter of Cornelius S. Mitchill, a successful businessman and his wife, Helen Reed Mitchill. Growing up in an affluent and cultured household, she was well versed in French and German and was a regular visitor to concerts and operas. At the age of eighteen she made her first trip to Europe, studying art informally in Germany, Italy, Paris, and London.
Upon returning home, Prellwitz enrolled at the Art Students League of New York. Between 1883 and 1889, she received instruction from such noted figure painters as George de Forest Brush, William Merritt Chase, Walter Shirlaw, and Kenyon Cox. In March of 1888, the year she was elected women's vice-president at the League, she began an apprenticeship at the Tiffany Glass Company in New York. However, the urge to become a painter was stronger; that December she left the Tiffany firm to concentrate exclusively on fine art.
While pursuing her goal of becoming a professional painter, Prellwitz emerged as an early arts advocate for women. Indeed, in 1888, she was elected women's vice-president at the Art Students League. The following year, she and a group of fellow painters--Grace Fitz-Randolph, Adele Frances Bedell, Anita C. Ashley, and Elizabeth S. Cheever--banded together to form the Woman's Club Art, organized to promote the work of women artists in the United States. The group, which Prellwitz felt could be "productive of something good," later evolved into the National Association of Women Artists.
In 1889 Prellwitz went to Paris, refining her skills as a figure painter at the Académie Julian under William-Adolphe Bouguereau and Tony Robert-Fleury. During her eighteen months in the French capital, she also received criticism from the painter Gustave Courtois, possibly at the Académie Colarossi.
Returning to New York in 1891, Edith established a studio, first at 49 West 22nd Street and later in the Holbein Studio Building at 152 West 55th Street, where she renewed her contact with Henry Prellwitz, whom she had met earlier at the Art Students League. They were subsequently married in October of 1894. A year later, using the $250 cash award Edith received upon winning the Norman W. Dodge Prize at the National Academy of Design, the couple built a small cottage known as "Prellwitz's Shanty" in Cornish, New Hampshire, a favorite summer haunt for artists, writers and musicians. During her trips to Cornish, Edith painted intimate, impressionist-inspired landscapes, including a view of the garden of the famous Beaux-Arts sculptor Augustus-Saint-Gaudens (ca. 1896; Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site, Cornish, New Hampshire).
When their Cornish residence was destroyed by fire in 1898, Edith and Henry began spending their summers in Peconic, Long Island, joining a coterie of fellow artists that included their good friends Irving Wiles and Edward August Bell. In 1911, they acquired an early nineteenth century house on Peconic Bay which became their year-round residence three years later.
Peconic remained Prellwitz's home base until 1928, when she and Henry moved into a cooperative apartment on East 41st Street in Manhattan. There, Edith painted views of the skyscrapers outside her studio window. In 1938, the Prellwitz's returned permanently to Peconic.
Prellwitz exhibited her work--portraits of women and children, allegorical figure pieces, and landscapes--in the major national annuals from the late 1880s until the late 1930s. She was the recipient of many distinguished awards including the National Academy of Design's second Hallgarten Prize (1894) and the Julia A. Shaw Prize (1929). She also received a silver medal at the Cotton States and International Exposition in Atlanta (1895) and a bronze medal at the Pan-American Exposition, held in Buffalo, New York in 1901. In 1899, she had joint exhibitions with her husband at the Charcoal Club in Baltimore and at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn.
Prellwitz was elected an associate member of the National Academy of Design in 1906. She also belonged to the Society of American Artists and the New York Water Color Club. In addition to producing easel paintings and watercolors, she created a major mural for the Universalist Church in Southold, New York in 1926. She was also the author of "Tempest in Paint Pots," an article which appeared in American Magazine of Art.
Prellwitz died on August 19 in East Greenwich, Rhode Island. Examples of her work can be found at the National Academy of Design in New York and elsewhere. In 1995, the Museums of Stony Brook, New York organized a major exhibition focusing on Edith and Henry Prellwitz and their association with the Peconic art colony.
ŠThe essay herein is the property of Spanierman Gallery LLC and is copyrighted by Spanierman Gallery LLC and may not be reproduced in whole or in part, without written permission from Spanierman Gallery LLC nor shown or communicated to anyone without due credit being given to Spanierman Gallery LLC.