James Everett Stuart (1852-1941)

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Spanierman Gallery, NYC

Active in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, James Everett Stuart was a landscape painter, who concentrated his attention on the mountainous regions of the Pacific Northwest, California, and Alaska.  He also rendered scenes of Yellowstone Park, his native Maine, and other locations.[1]  Born near Bangor, Maine, Stuart traveled with his family via the Isthmus of Panama, landing in San Francisco in December of 1860.  Within a few days, the family moved to a sheep and cattle ranch at the lower end of Grand Island, on the Sacramento River, near Sacramento, while Stuart and his older brother attended school downriver in Rio Vista.   Stuart’s first painting efforts coincided with his arrival in California, when he created sketches while boating along the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers, using “paints secured from empty cans from which fishermen had painted their boats” along with brushes made from the tails of cats.[2]

James Everett Stuart - Crater Lake, Looking West from the Surface of the Water, 1882
James Everett Stuart (1852-1942)
Crater Lake, Looking West from the Surface of the Water, 1882

Oil on canvas on panel, 14 x 22 inches

After Stuart’s family suffered a financial loss due to the great flood that occurred in the winter of 1861-62, they moved to a ranch on the mainland, a mile west of Silveyville, which was on the stagecoach route (the town was deserted when the Central Pacific Railroad completed its line from Sacramento to Vallejo in about 1867). In 1866, after years of hardship for the family, in which Stuart worked as a sheepherder and helped on the ranch, Stuart’s father hired him to a nearby farmer to buck straw.  Disliking this employment, Stuart went to Sacramento, where he found a job painting farm wagons, for which he gave his father part of the profits.  He subsequently found a job in a carriage paint shop, where he worked for three years, while beginning to take lessons from the Sacramento portrait painter David Holmes Woods.  He also took lessons in scroll and sign painting, while spending his early mornings sketching along the Sacramento and American rivers.  On occasion, he went to San Francisco, where he also sought lessons in landscape painting

James Everett Stuart first visited Portland, Oregon, in 1876, a time that he made sketches of Mt. Hood and other peaks in Oregon and Washington.  He also took a trip to Seattle.  In the late winter of 1875 and the early months of 1876, Stuart received instruction in portrait painting from Benoni Irwin in San Francisco, creating at that time a portrait of the writer Joaquin Miller (State Library, Sacramento).  He also created frescoes for the mansion of Leland Stanford, on San Francisco’s Nob Hill.  From 1877 through 1879 Stuart attended the San Francisco School of Design, studying under Virgil Williams and Raymond Dabb Yelland.  While at the school, he made the acquaintance of the noted painters Thomas Hill, William Keith, James Hamilton, Gideon Jacques Denny, Arthur Nahl, and Charles Dorman Robinson, and many others.  Stuart also met the prominent artists of the region, such as Jules Tavernier, Julian Rix, and Joe Strong, through his membership in San Francisco’s Bohemian Club.

James Everett Stuart, Mt. Shasta, Siskiyou Mountains, California, 1885
James Everett Stuart (1852-1942)
Mt. Shasta from the Summit of the Siskiyou Mountains, California, April 30, 1885
Oil on canvas, 18 x 30 inches

In 1879, Stuart returned to the Pacific Northwest, visiting the Columbia River and The Dalles, where a recent fire’s destructive impact led Stuart to believe he could find work painting new signs.  He found the area rich in artistic subjects, which he discovered and rendered on camping and  painting trips, among them to Celilo, where a Native American tribe had a headquarters.  He established a studio in the southern Oregon town of Ashland in 1880, and after another visit to The Dalles in 1881, he opened “his first public studio in Portland, Oregon.”  Although he had to struggle to maintain his studio and continue his sketching tours into the mountains, he was able to sell his work to wealthy Portland businessmen.  Stuart was active in the art display at the Portland Mechanics’ Fair of 1883, but he was not a participant in the 1885 show.

James Everett Stuart returned to California in March of 1886, visiting his family and making sketches in Yosemite.  He also found subject matter in the California towns of Monterey, Carmel, and Santa Barbara.  After closing his Portland studio in August of 1886. Stuart traveled to Yellowstone Park, where he sketched in the fall before heading east to New York in order to deliver a painting he had created of Yosemite to the New York collector Charles Pratt.  He stopped en route in St. Paul and Minneapolis, Minnesota; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Kansas City, Missouri; St. Louis, Missouri, and Chicago, selling his works along the way. Arriving in New York in late October 1886, he established a studio in the Holbein building at 145 West 55th Street, joining other artists whose studios were also in the building, including the painters George Inness, Sr., George Inness, Jr., Elliott Daingerfield, Kenyon Cox, and William Hardy, and the sculptor Jonathan Scott Hartley.  Stuart became particularly friendly with the elder Inness, who frequented his studio and offered him advice.  Stuart also visited the studios of J. Francis Murphy and Alexander Wyant.  A large auction of Stuart’s works was held at the Bucken Art Galleries in New York, in 1888. 

Stuart left New York in 1890, returning to Yellowstone, where he spent the summer, creating views of the falls and a view of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, which took him five years to complete. He opened a studio in Seattle in the fall of the year, where he sold some of his important paintings to the collector Fred Sander.  He moved in 1891 to Tacoma, Washington, where he opened a gallery to sell his views of Washington to local art patrons.  He chartered a yacht in the spring in order to sketch on Hood’s Canal. 

In June of 1891, Stuart sailed for Alaska, where he established a summer headquarters in the city of Sitka, and painted nearby locales, including the Muir Glacier.  Obtaining passage on a trading schooner, he traveled to Yakutat, and along the way obtained views of Mts. St. Elias and Fairweather.  He made subsequent trips to Alaska in 1893, 1897, and 1903. After a stay in California in 1891 and 1892, Stuart spent the summer in Minneapolis, where he made sales of his paintings, before moving in October of 1892, to Chicago, where he established a studio and gallery.  He remained in Chicago for twenty years before settling in San Francisco in 1912, at first renting a floor in the Rothchild Building at 239 Geary Street and then moving in 1923 to 684 Commercial Street. In the period that followed, he was highly successful.  He sold works both from his studio and from a gallery that he operated until his death in 1941.  It was subsequently run by his brother until 1944, when a final sale was held of its contents. 

James Everett Stuart’s work was influenced by his teacher Yelland as well as by Hudson River School artist Albert Bierstadt.  However, his images of the local landscape are more painterly than Bierstadt’s detailed scenes, suggesting the inspiration of George Inness.  His process was to create painted sketches directly from his sites.  From these works, he produced finished and more elaborately composed  paintings in his studio.  An important chronicler of the American West in the late nineteenth century, Stuart created a significant record of the landscape of a bygone era.  His works are especially noted for their luminous effects.  This aspect of his art was recognized during his day.  A writer for the Philadelphia Item remarked in 1902: “In his studio are snow-capped peaks--Hood, Adams, Rainier, Shasta, Yosemite Valley, Lake Tahoe--painted with that wonderful glow effect which has made Stuart the acknowledged master of this particular type of art.”[3]

Many prominent individuals purchased Stuart’s works including the banker J. P. Morgan, the art collector Thomas B. Clark, the minister Henry Ward Beecher, the merchant Marshall Field, and John D. Rockefeller of Standard Oil. Stuart felt that one of his greatest achievements was to develop a means of painting on aluminum, a non-corrosive metal that would outlast canvas. 

Stuart exhibited at the Art Institute of Chicago and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.  He was a member of the San Francisco Art Association and the American Artists Professional League.  His work may be found in the collections of the Anchorage Museum of History and Art, Alaska; the Birmingham Museum of Art, Alabama; the Crocker Art Gallery, Sacramento; the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco; the Fred Jones Jr Museum of Art, Norman, Oklahoma; the Golden Gate Park Museum, San Francisco; the Hearst Art Gallery, St. Mary’s College, Moraga, California; the Joslyn Memorial Art Gallery, Omaha, Nebraska; the Kalamazoo Art Association, Michigan; the Los Angeles Museum of History and Science; the Millicent Rogers Museum, Taos, New Mexico;  the Museum of Art at Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah; the Oregon Historical Society, Portland; the Southwest Museum, Los Angeles; the University of Southern California, Los Angeles; the University of Alaska Museum of the North; and the Washington State Historical Museum.




© The 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.

  Information on Stuart’s career derives from “Outline of a brief autobiographical sketch written during the year 1924 by the late James Everett Stuart,” California History Section, California State Library, Sacramento.  Contrary to the statement in Stuart’s obituary in the New York Times, he was not the grandson of the painter Gilbert Stuart.  “James Stuart, 88; Landscape Artist,” New York Times, January 4, 1941.

[2]   Stuart autobiography, 2.

[3]   Quoted in The Famous Collection of American Paintings by James Everett Stuart, exh. cat. (San Francisco, Calif.: Stuart Gallery, [1944].), n.p.


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