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.
Copyright ©2005 The Schwarz Gallery