(1837 - 1908)

A specialist in marine and coastal paintings, Alfred Thompson Bricher was celebrated for his precise depictions of waves breaking at the shoreline. Bricher was born in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and grew up in Newburyport, on the Massachusetts coast. He worked as a clerk in a dry-goods store in Boston while painting in his spare time. Bricher may have studied art at Boston's Lowell Institute but was largely self-taught. He studied the works of artists he met during sketching tours in New England and opened a studio in Boston around 1859. In 1866 he traveled to the upper Mississippi River Valley and Minnesota, the setting of many early autumnal scenes. In that year he established a long relationship with L. Prang and Company, supplying paintings from which the Boston firm published chromolithographs. These inexpensive color reproductions brought him wide recognition among the American art public.

Bricher's early paintings were panoramic views of the New England interior, painted with the celebratory spirit and exacting detail that characterize the Hudson River School, America's first native landscape painting tradition. With marriage and his growing success as a landscape painter, Bricher moved to New York City around 1868. He became active in several artists' organizations, including the American Society of Painters in Water Colors. In both watercolor and oils, Bricher began to follow the current trend toward painting the shoreline and became known for his coastal scenes. He traveled widely in search of subjects, journeying throughout New England and as far as Grand Manan Island and New Brunswick, in Canada. Although there is no direct evidence that he traveled abroad, Bricher's works include some English and Italian images. His marine paintings, often low-tide scenes, were characterized by the same precise, realistic detail as his early depictions of the New England countryside, now applied to a masterful rendering of curling waves and sunlit water. Bricher's long, horizontal formats; invisible brushwork; low, flat horizons; and glowing light link him to the contemporary trend dubbed "luminism" by modern scholars.

Bricher's popular and financial success enabled him to purchase homes in New York's Staten Island and Southampton on Long Island, which furnished more subjects for his paintings. In the late 1870s, he also turned to figural works, portraying genteel ladies, including his second wife, in idyllic landscapes and at the beach. He also continued to paint his more typical deserted shore scenes in familiar locales. While never abandoning his commitment to a detailed realism, Bricher was influenced later in his career by the contemporary tendency toward looser, more active brushwork. His last works offer a new emotional depth, evoking romantic themes of abandonment, loss, and the relentless power of nature.

Contributed by Anonymous
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