Seymour Joseph Guy

(American, born England, 1824-1910)

Considering his great success as one of late nineteenth-century America's most popular genre painters, relatively little is known about Seymour Joseph Guy's early life and his artistic training. Born at Greenwich, England, and orphaned at age nine, he seems to have worked at a variety of trades before being apprenticed to Ambrosini Jerome (active 1840-1871), a woman portrait painter under the patronage of the Duchess of Kent. After four years with Jerome, he exhibited Cupid in Search of Psyche at the British Institution in London. In 1854 at the age of thirty, Guy came to the United States, where he settled in New York and married the daughter of an engraver. In New York he first painted portraits that demonstrated his familiarity with the grand tradition of English portraiture. He exhibited at the National Academy of Design in New York, where he became an associate member in 1861 and a full member in 1865. An examination of the Academy's exhibition record shows that Guy quickly moved from portraiture to the genre painting that would make his reputation. His genre scenes usually depict children, and many appear sentimental and moralizing to modern eyes. Some of them are interior scenes that emphasize the effects of strong artificial light and resemble the works of popular European genre painters. In addition to the National Academy, Guy exhibited at the Boston Athenaeum, the Maryland Historical Society in Baltimore, and the Brooklyn Art Association. The annual exhibitions of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia included his Children in 1862, Inspiration in 1866, and Making a Train—now in the Philadelphia Museum of Art—in 1868. He was a charter member of the American Watercolor Society, and a member of the Artists' Fund Society and the Century Association, all in New York.