New Jersey Remembered: A Seventy-fifth Anniversary; Philadelphia Collection 75; October 2005
Edmund Darch Lewis
Cape May, New Jersey
Watercolor and gouache on paper, 9 3/8 × 20 inches
Signed and dated at lower right: “Edmund D. Lewis/1894”

Edmund Darch Lewis was born in Philadelphia, the son of a prominent businessman. According to family tradition he was educated at a private school and studied painting with the German-born landscapist Paul Weber (1823–1916). He first exhibited at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in 1854, where he was elected an associate in 1859 and a full academician in 1862. He also exhibited at the Boston Athenaeum from 1858 to 1869, and the National Academy of Design in New York in 1860. Lewis never married and lived a comfortable existence with his parents up to the age of fifty.

The large, detailed, and romantic landscapes that he painted between 1860 and 1876 reflect the influence of his famous contemporaries Frederic Edwin Church (1826–1900) and Albert Bierstadt (1830–1902). Lewis was a prolific artist whose views of Pennsylvania, New York, and New England were avidly collected by Philadelphia art patrons, and by the early 1880s he had amassed a fortune. Lewis devoted the last thirty years of his life to amassing a huge collection of fine and decorative arts that he displayed in his sumptuously furnished townhouse on 526 South 22 nd Street. He lost interest in oil painting and the quality of his work in that medium declined noticeably.

Lewis’s late work consists primarily of watercolors that he painted for his own pleasure. Many of these represent the popular resorts Cape May and Atlantic City. The artist’s biographer has noted that “such scenes account for some of his finest work in this medium” and that “the convenience and relaxing nature of such trips would have been appealing to the ageing artist, since the rigors of irregular terrain and travel were avoided in such outings.”1 From the 1880s until his death, the artist frequently spent summers on the south shore of New Jersey with his younger brother Clifford, who owned a house in Cape May.

Dated 1884, 1894, and 1902, these three watercolors provide a good chronological range of Lewis’s New Jersey subjects. Painted a decade apart, Looking Up the Beach, Cape May, represents the same view as Cape May, New Jersey, but from a viewpoint closer to the town.


1. Michael Schantz, Edmund Darch Lewis, 1835–1910 [exh. cat.] (Philadelphia: Woodmere Art Museum, 1985), p. 11; Schantz, on p. 20, illustrates four watercolors of Atlantic City that Lewis painted in 1904. Another watercolor, Cape May (1889, Sewell C. Biggs Collection, Dover, Delaware), is discussed in Catherine E. Hutchins, ed., The Sewell C. Biggs Collection of American Art: A Catalogue, vol. 2, Paintings and Sculpture (Dover, Del.: Biggs Museum of American Art, 2002), pp. 374–75.

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