Gilbert Munger USA

4-14-1837 Madison, USA - 1-27-1903 Washington D.C, USA

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Munger, Gilbert

When Gilbert Davis Munger evinced artistic talent at an early age, his family sent him to Washington, D.C. at the age of just 13 to apprentice with William H. Dougal, who was then senior engraver at the Smithsonian Institution. As a painter, however, he was largely self-taught and was inspired in the development of his style by reading the work of John Ruskin and studying the painters of the Hudson River School.

A turning point in Gilbert Munger's life came in 1869 when he joined Clarence King's famed Fortieth Parallel Survey as a guest artist. Munger's association with the expedition's scientists and with photographer Timothy H. O'Sullivan was instrumental in shaping him as one of a new generation of artists who foregrounded optical accuracy over allegory in their landscape work.

Between 1869 and 1875, Gilbert Munger made other trips around the West, painting landscapes—especially volcanic mountains—in central and southern California, Oregon, and Washington. With Albert Bierstadt, he made a trip in November 1872 to paint Donner Pass. In this phase of his career, he made San Francisco his home base, and he became a recognized figure in the Bay Area art world.

In 1877, Gilbert Munger moved to Europe, living first in London where he became a friend of John Millais and later in Paris. In England, he painted reproductions of his Western landscapes which were much in demand as well as scenes around London, in Cornwall, and in Scotland. In France, he painted numerous landscapes along the Seine River and in the Barbizon region. At the instigation of John Ruskin, he also painted some 50 canvases of Venice; these are more vividly colored and looser in their brushwork than most of his earlier work. The European period saw the height of Munger's success and fame, with some of his paintings selling for substantial sums in the $1000—5000 range ($20,000–$120,000 today).

In 1893, Gilbert Munger returned to New York, where he produced reproductions of his European paintings as well as new landscapes of areas around West Virginia, New York, and elsewhere. He was unable to match his European level of success, he had fallen into relative obscurity. It may be that Munger's lifelong avoidance of the formal art-world institutions of academy exhibitions and selling through dealers worked against him. He preferred to sell his work by word of mouth, and thus when he returned to America after a 15-year absence, he was unable to count on the assistance of a dealer in reintroducing him to his home market.

Art Movement: Hudson River School
Influences: John Ruskin
Traveled: England, France, Scotland, Germany, Russia, Belgium, Italy
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