John La Farge

John La FargeAmerican artist John La Farge is best known for his stained glass designs, landscape paintings, and religious murals.

La Farge was born in New York City on March 31, 1835, to a wealthy French family. La Farge received his first drawing lessons from his grandfather, Louis Binsse de Saint-Victor.

After studying law in New York, La Farge went abroad and immersed himself in the works of Eugene Delacroix, Theodore Chasseriau, and other European artists. He was particularly interested in medieval stained glass art.

Upon his return to New York in 1858, La Farge rented a studio at the Tenth Street Studio Building, where he met architect Richard Morris Hunt. In 1859, La Farge moved to Newport, Rhode Island, to study painting with Hunt's brother, William Morris Hunt. La Farge became friends with novelist Henry James and his brother William James, fellow students in Hunt's studio.

In 1873, the La Farge family moved to 10 Sunnyside Place. After a brief work period in Boston, La Farge returned to Newport in 1865 and took up residence on Paradise Avenue. From 1866-68, he painted landscapes of Paradise Valley.

In 1880, La Farge was commissioned to decorate the interior of Newport's Congregational Church. He collaborated with artist Augustus Saint-Gaudens on the Edward King Tomb in Newport's Island Cemetery.

In 1880, La Farge was awarded a patent for making opalescent glass, which involved layering two or more pieces of glass rather than painting on the glass.

Other commissions included decorations for the Fifth Avenue, New York, home of Cornelius Vanderbilt II, and the stained glass skylight for Vanderbilt's Newport summer home, The Breakers.

La Farge died in Providence, Rhode Island, in 1910. Like many Gilded Age artists, La Farge's work was made famous by commissions from upper-class Newport families.

Kay Davis, University of Virginia, ©2001-2003