Robertson Kirtland Mygatt; Philadelphia Collection 74; March 2005


Robertson K. Mygatt was born in New York City on October 12, 1862, the son of Jared Potter K. Mygatt and Sarah Matilda Robertson.4 Jared, a native of Poland, Ohio, had graduated from the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis in 1853 and served
Robertson Mygatt in his studio
Robertson Mygatt in his studio
in the Navy until 1861, when he resigned with the rank of acting lieutenant. Robertson inherited his interest in art from his mother, who was the granddaughter of the landscape and miniature painter Archibald Robertson (1765–1835). Archibald, along with his brother Alexander Robertson (1772–1841), had co-founded the Columbian Academy of Painting in New York, one of the first art schools in the United States. William Henry Rinehart (1825–1874) sculpted a bust portrait of Sarah (1860; Historical Society of Carroll County, Westminster, Maryland), and later made full-length statues of Robertson (c. 1868; location unknown) and his younger brother Otis Angelo (1874; Chrysler Museum, Norfolk, Virginia).5 After Jared died of tuberculosis in 1866, Robertson and Otis were raised by their mother, who took them on summer trips to Europe, where it is likely that Robertson began his art studies. He is documented as having traveled to Europe in the summer of 1881.6

Mygatt attended the Art Students' League in New York from October 1888 to January 1889, where his courses included the introductory "Preparatory Antique Class" taught by John Henry Twachtman (1853–1902).7 Other noted artists who taught there at that time and with whom Mygatt may have had contact were J. Carroll Beckwith (1852–1917), Edwin Howland Blashfield (1848–1936), William Merritt Chase (1849–1916), Kenyon Cox (1856–1919), and George de Forest Brush (1855–1941). Mygatt later owned a painting by the latter artist entitled The Indian (location unknown).8

It was during his student years that Mygatt began to make etchings, which he first exhibited at the New York Etching Club in 1889. The earliest examples depicted street scenes of the popular spa Carlsbad, Austria (since renamed Karlovy Vary and now part of the Czech Republic), as well as views from his New York studio, Van Cortland Park in The Bronx, and Provincetown and Stockbridge, Massachusetts. Later he made etchings of subjects encountered during visits to Santa Barbara, California, and Jacksonville, Florida. Mygatt listed thirty-three etchings by title in his sketchbook, but their chronology is uncertain. Six were included in the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, and later that year ten were shown at the New York Etching Club. The latter received mixed reviews from the critics, one of whom noted that, although in certain etchings such as Market, Carlsbad, Austria, the artist "has individuality, and employs the needle with plenty of vivacity, as well as with a sense of (next)

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