New Jersey Remembered: A Seventy-fifth Anniversary; Philadelphia Collection 75; October 2005
William Lees Judson
Steamboat Leaving Camden Pier
Oil on canvas, 11 1/4 × 9 inches
Signed at lower right: “W. L. Judson”
Inscribed in pencil on stretcher verso: “Judson”

The artist and stained glass designer William Lees Judson was born in Manchester, England, the son of a cotton mill manager who had studied the decorative arts. His father immigrated to the United States in 1852 and worked as a decorator in Ohio and New York before turning to farming. The family joined him in 1854, and William Judson lived in Brooklyn before relocating to Canada several years later. He was educated in public schools and studied art with his father. Judson returned to the United States in 1860 and served in the 21st Illinois Volunteers during the Civil War. At the end of the conflict he returned to Canada, married, and moved to London, Ontario. He studied with John B. Irving (1826–1877) in New York City from 1872 to 1873, with George B. Bridgeman (1869–1943) and J. W. L. Forster (1850–1938) in Toronto in 1874, and at the Académie Julian in Paris from 1878 to 1879. Judson returned to Canada and exhibited regularly at the Royal Canadian Academy from 1880 to 1888. He became a professor of art at Hellmuth College in London in 1881, and published his first book, A Tour of the Thames (1881), under the pseudonym of Professor Blot. Judson went to Europe in 1882 and again studied at the Académie Julian until 1884.

He returned to Canada and gave art lessons in Stratford, Ontario, in 1889. He moved to Chicago and regularly exhibited watercolors at the Art Institute of Chicago from 1891 to 1899. Suffering from ill health, he moved to Pasadena, California, and became head of the Art Department of the University of Southern California (USC) in 1895. Judson was appointed first dean of the USC Art Department when it was established as a college in 1901. He and his two sons founded the Judson Studios, and he became a leading maker of stained glass in California. He was awarded a bronze medal at Panama California Exposition, San Diego, in 1915. Judson retired from the College of Fine Arts in 1922, but continued to lecture and paint until he suffered a stroke in 1927 and died in Los Angeles the following year.1

Judson probably painted this view of the Camden ferry in 1876, when he is known to have attended the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia with the young Canadian artist Paul Peel (1860–1892). The various ferries that offered transportation from Camden to Philadelphia from different points along the east side of the Delaware River had operated since the late seventeenth century and contributed greatly to the city’s economic growth.2 This river view is very similar to some of the illustrations that Judson made for A Tour of the Thames, an account of traveling by skiff down the Canadian river Thames.


1. For a study of Judson, see Jane Apostol, Painting with Light: A Centennial History of the Judson Studios (Los Angeles: Historical Society of Southern California, 1997).

2. For a summary of the ferries that operated between Philadelphia and Camden, see J. Thomas Scharf and Thompson Westcott, History of Philadelphia, 1609–1884 (Philadelphia: L. H. Everts and Co.), vol. 3, p. 2139.

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