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Name: Charles Humphreys
Dates: (1818 - 1880)
Nationality: American
Biography: Charles Spencer Humphreys was born in Moorestown, where his father owned a general store. He surfaced in Camden in May 1837, where he placed a notice in a newspaper advertising himself as a house, sign, and ornamental painter. He shared a studio with his brother Richard Humphreys (1803–1872) from 1840 to 1844 and around that time married Caroline Fetters, with whom he had five children. The majority of Humphreys’s surviving works represent horses, the earliest known example being a lettered sign made for the Mansion House in Cape May (now the Cape May Historical Museum, Cape May Court House). He is thought to have decorated harnesses and breast straps for a Camden harness manufacturer and also painted wagons. Humphreys made paintings for the interior of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Camden in 1850. During the early 1850s he began to paint the subjects for which he became famous, portraits of specific racehorses posed against landscape backgrounds, or being driven by their owners or trainers. Humphreys retired to Long Branch, where he died. Horseracing enthusiasts held Humphreys’s work in high esteem. Some of his paintings were reproduced as color lithographs, and his portraits of horses and designs for carriages reportedly were included in the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition in 1876. His death was reported in both American and foreign newspapers.1

Notes

1. For biographical information on Humphreys, see Howard R. Kemble and Arthur D. Pierce, “A Distinguished Camden Artist,” The Bulletin of the Camden County Historical Society, vol. 4 (May 1961), pp. 141. For a recent discussion of his career, see Deborah Chotner, Julie Aronson, Sarah D. Cash, and Laurie Weitzenkorn, American Naive Paintings, The Collections of the National Gallery of Art, Systematic Catalogue (Washington, D.C.: National Gallery of Art, 1992), pp. 213–15.

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