New Jersey Remembered: A Seventy-fifth Anniversary; Philadelphia Collection 75; October 2005
Frank Waller
(American, 1842–1923)
Church, Morristown
Oil on canvas, 10 1/4 × 13 inches
Inscribed at lower right: “Morristown/June 08”

Frank Waller was born in New York in 1842, the son of a dry goods merchant. He studied drawing at the Free Academy of the City of New York (known since 1961 as the City College of New York) from about 1857 to 1861. According to an early source, “Between the years 1863 and ’68 he was in business in his native city, drawing with pen and ink, and painting in oil in his leisure hours.”1 Waller first exhibited at the National Academy of Design in 1870 and later that year went to Rome and studied with John Gadsby Chapman (1808–1889). Waller returned to New York in 1871, and the following year he toured Egypt with his friend and fellow artist Edwin White (1817–1877). Thereafter he became noted for his Egyptian landscapes, especially romantic views of archaeological ruins and native life along the Nile.

Waller studied at the National Academy of Design with Lemuel Wilmarth (1835–1918). He became one of the founders of the Art Students League in 1875 and served as its first president, as treasurer in 1876, as corresponding secretary in 1879, and a second term as president in 1881. In 1878 Waller returned to Europe and visited a number of art academies in preparation for writing his Report on Art Schools (1879). He exhibited often at the Brooklyn Art Association from 1873 to 1884 and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts from 1879 to 1884. He continued to exhibit at the National Academy until 1887, when he became an architect and joined the Architectural League of New York. Thereafter Waller abandoned his academic Orientalist subjects and painted small Impressionist oil sketches for pleasure while visiting such places as upstate New York, New Hampshire, and Bermuda. He remained interested in archaeology and served as a local honorary secretary of the Egypt Exploration Society from 1897 to 1902 and on the Ur Exploration Society.

Later in life Waller bought a house on 27 Franklin Street in historic Morristown, New Jersey. The town was named after Colonel Lewis Morris, Governor of the Province of New Jersey in the late 1730s. During the Revolutionary War George Washington and his Continental Army wintered near Morristown twice, on the site of what is now Morristown National Historical Park. After the war Morris County was a leader in the iron ore industry, and by 1880 it was the third-largest iron producing county in the nation. The area’s iron industry gradually declined after the 1880s, and by the turn of the century many wealthy businessmen from New York began to build large country estates there. Within a few years it was claimed that more millionaires lived within a one-mile radius of the Morristown Green than elsewhere in the world. Painted directly from nature, Waller’s late oil sketches of Morristown capture a sense of the fashionable town’s bucolic setting and charm.


1. Clara Erskine Clement and Laurence Hutton, Artists of the Nineteenth Century and Their Works (New York: The Riverside Press and Houghton Mifflin, 1894), p. 331. For a recent discussion of Waller, see Amy L. Walsh in Natalie Spassky et al., American Paintings in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, vol. 2, A Catalogue of Works by Artists Born between 1816 and 1845 (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1985), pp. 575–79.

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