(1835 - 1910)

John La Farge (March 31, 1835 – November 14, 1910) was an American painter, muralist, stained glass window maker, decorator, and writer.


LaFarge was born in New York City to wealthy French parents and was raised bilingually.[1] His interest in art began during his training at Mount St. Mary's University[2] and St. John's College (now Fordham University). He initially intended to study law. This changed after his first visit to Paris, France, in 1856,[1] where he studied with Thomas Couture and became acquainted with famous literary people of the city. LaFarge subsequently studied with painter William Morris Hunt in Newport.[3][4] Even LaFarge's earliest drawings and landscapes, done in Newport, Rhode Island, show marked originality, especially in the handling of color values, and also the influence of Japanese art, in the study of which he was a pioneer.

Between 1859 and 1870, he illustrated Tennyson's Enoch Arden and Robert Browning's Men and Women. Breadth of observation and structural conception, and a vivid imagination and sense of color are shown by his mural decorations. His first work in mural painting was done in Trinity Church, Boston, in 1873. Then followed his decorations in the Church of the Ascension (the large altarpiece) and St. Paul's Chapel (Columbia University), New York. For the Minnesota State Capitol at St. Paul he executed, at age 71, four great lunettes representing the history of law, and for the Supreme Court building at Baltimore, a similar series with Justice as the theme.

LaFarge also painted extensively recording his extensive travels in the Orient and South Pacific. He visited Japan in 1886, and the South Seas in 1890 and 1891, in particular spending time and absorbing the culture of Tahiti.[1] Henry Adams accompanied him on these trips as a travel companion.[1]

His labors in almost every type of art won for him from the French Government the Cross of the Legion of Honor and membership in the principal artistic societies of America, as well as the presidency of the National Society of Mural Painters from 1899 through 1904. Enjoying an extraordinary knowledge of languages (ancient and modern), literature, and art, by his cultured personality and reflective conversation he influenced many other people. Though naturally a questioner he venerated the traditions of religious art, and preserved always his Catholic faith and reverence.

During 1904, he was one of the first seven artists chosen for membership in the American Academy of Arts and Letters. On his passing in 1910, John LaFarge was interred in the Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York. During his life, he maintained a studio at 51 West 10th Street, in Greenwich Village, which is now part of the site of Eugene Lang College.[5]

Stained glass

La Farge experimented with color problems, especially in the medium of stained glass. He succeeded not only in rivaling the gorgeousness of medieval windows, but in adding new resources by his invention of opalescent glass and his original methods of superimposing and welding his material.

Among his many stained glass masterpieces are:

·         four windows at the Trinity Church, Boston (1877–78)

·         windows at Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC (1881)

·         windows at Church of St. Joseph of Arimathea in Greenburgh, New York (1883)

·         windows at the St. Paul's Chapel, Columbia University, NYC (1888–99)

·         rose window at the First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia (1891)

·         windows at Trinity Episcopal Church in Buffalo, NY (1886–89)

·         memorial window at All Saints Episcopal Church, Briarcliff Manor, New York (1889)

·         window of Edwin Booth as Hamlet at The Church of the Transfiguration in New York City (1898)

·      windows in Mount Vernon Church, Boston, 1890s[6]

Marriage and children

He married on October 15, 1860 at Newport, Rhode Island, Margaret Mason Perry, who was born on February 26, 1839 in Newport, Rhode Island, and died on May 2, 1925.

Her father was Christopher Grant Perry, the son of Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry and Elizabeth Champlin Mason. He was a descendant of Gov. Thomas Prence (1599 - March 29, 1673) a co-founder of Eastham, Massachusetts, a political leader in both the Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay colonies, and governor of Plymouth (1634, 1638, and 1657–1673); and Elder William Brewster (pilgrim), (c. 1567 - April 10, 1644), the Pilgrim leader and spiritual elder of the Plymouth Colony and a passenger on the Mayflower.

Her mother was Frances Sergeant, who was the daughter of Chief Justice Thomas Sergeant and Sarah Bache, the daughter of Sarah Franklin Bache and Richard Bache. She was a great-granddaughter of Benjamin Franklin, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States of America and Deborah Read.

His eldest son, Christopher Grant LaFarge, was a partner in the New York-based architectural firm of Heins & LaFarge, responsible for projects in Beaux-Arts style, notably the original Byzantine Cathedral of St. John the Divine, the Yale undergraduate society St. Anthony Hall (extant 1893-1913) pictured at,[7] and the original Astor Court buildings of the Bronx Zoo.

His son Oliver Hazard Perry LaFarge I became an architect and real estate developer. Part of his career in real estate was in a Seattle partnership with Marshall Latham Bond, Bond & LaFarge. During the year 1897 to 1898 Seattle real estate which had been extremely prosperous was in a "slump". The partners left and participated in the Klondike Gold Rush. Among the camp fire mates at Dawson City during the Fall of 1897 was Jack London who rented a tent site from Marshall Bond. In Seattle the Perry Building designed after LaFarge returned is still standing. Later on in life O.H.P. LaFarge designed buildings for General Motors.

Another of his sons, John LaFarge, S.J., became a Jesuit priest and a strong supporter of anti-racist policies.


LaFarge is honored together with Ralph Adams Cram and Richard Upjohn with a feast day on the liturgical calendar of the Episcopal Church (USA) on December 16.

Selection of LaFarge's writings


·    The American Art of Glass (a pamphlet)

·    Considerations on Painting (New York, 1895)

·    An Artist's Letters from Japan (New York, 1897)

·    The Great Masters (New York)

·    Hokusai: a talk about Japanese painting (New York, 1897)

·    The Higher Life in Art (New York, 1908)

·    One Hundred Great Masterpieces

·    The Christian Story in Art

·    Letters from the South Seas (unpublished)

·    Correspondence (unpublished)

Notes and references

1.     ^ a b c d Roberts, Norma J., ed. (1988), The American CollectionsColumbus Museum of Art

, p. 26, ISBN 0-8109-1811-0.

2.     ^ "Works by Mount Saint Mary's Alumnus to be Featured in Exhibit". emmitsburg.net. Retrieved 2007-07-06.

3.     ^ American Paintings and Sculpture at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, By Margaret C. Conrads, Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Published by Hudson Hills, 1990, ISBN 1555950507

4.     ^ The only full-length formal portrait ever painted by LaFarge was that of Richard Howland Hunt, the young son of architect Richard Morris Hunt, brother of the painter William Morris Hunt.[1]

5.     ^ Kenneth T. Jackson:The Encyclopedia of New York City: The New York Historical Society; Yale University Press; 1995. P. 650.

6.     ^ Julie L. Sloan and James L. Yarnall. Art of an Opaline Mind: The Stained Glass of John La Farge. American Art Journal, Vol. 24, No. 1/2 (1992)

7.     ^ Yale's Lost Landmarks at www.yalealumnimagazine.com

§  Adams, Foster, La Farge, Weinberg, Wren and Yarnell, John La Farge, Abbeville Publishing Group (Abbeville Press, Inc.), NY, NY 1987

§  Cortissoz, Royal, John La Farge: A Memoir and a Study, Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston 1911

§  Forbes, David W., "Encounters with Paradise: Views of Hawaii and its People, 1778-1941", Honolulu Academy of Arts, 1992, 201-220.

§  Gaede, Robert and Robert Kalin, Guide to Cleveland Architecture, Cleveland Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, Cleveland OH 1991

§  Kowski, Goldman et al., Buffalo Architecture:A Guide, The MIT Press, Cambridge MA 1981

§  Mather, Jr., Frank Jewett (April 1911). "John La Farge - An Appreciation"The World's Work: A History of Our Time XXI: 14085–14100. Retrieved 2009-07-10.

§  Waern, Cecilia, John La Farge: Artist and Writer, Seeley and Co. Limited, London 1896


Source: Wikipedia
Contributed by Anonymous
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