John Quidor

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John Quidor
John Quidor - The Headless Horseman Pursuing Ichabod Crane - Google Art Project.jpg
The Headless Horseman Pursuing Ichabod Crane (1858)
Born (1801-01-26)January 26, 1801
Tappan, New York[1]
Died December 14, 1881(1881-12-14) (aged 80)
Jersey City, New Jersey [1]
Nationality American
Education John Wesley Jarvis
Known for Painting, History painting
Notable work(s) Dorothea (1823)
The Headless Horseman Pursuing Ichabod Crane (1858)
The Money Diggers (1832)
Leatherstocking's Rescue (q.v.)

John Quidor (kĬdôr, January 26, 1801 – December 13, 1881) was an American painter of historical and literary subjects. He has about 35 known canvases, most of which are based on Washington Irving's stories about Dutch New York, drawing inspiration from the Hudson Valley and from such English painters as William Hogarth, Isaac Cruikshank, James Gillray, Joseph Wright of Derby, and George Morland.[2]


Quidor was born in 1801 in Tappan, New York.[1] His family moved to New York City in 1810. At age 17, in the year 1818, he began an apprenticeship with John Wesley Jarvis (where artist Henry Inman was also training), which was the only artistic training he received.[1][2][3] The apprenticeship was not a success.[2][3] Jarvis did not pay much attention to Quidor, favoring Inman over him, leading Quidor to sue Jarvis for breach of indenture in 1822, winning damages of $251.35.[2] Because he had to admit that he received inadequate training, the lawsuit served to damaged Quidor's reputation more so than Jarvis'.[3]

Following his apprenticeship, Quidor earned a living by doing decorative work on steamboats and fire engines for New York's fire companies.[2][3] Starting in the mid-1820s, Quidor began creating paintings based on literary themes, including Washington Irving's short stories Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Rip Van Winkle and James Fenimore Cooper's book The Pioneers. During this part of his career, he took on Thomas Bangs Thorpe and Charles Loring Elliott as his apprentices.[2] Of his time working for Quidor, Thorpe recalled that, "in all the time we were with Quidor, many months, I do not remember of his giving us anything but easel room and one or two very common engravings to copy. He would absent himself from his studio for days and weeks together. When present, if not painting on a banner or engine back, he would generally lie at full length on the long bench" [3]

A fire destroyed Quidor's studio, located at 46 Canal Street, on December 16, 1835.[3] That incident, combined with two major cholera outbreaks in the area and a financial crash in the late 1830s, led Quidor to abandon New York.[3] He moved to Quincy, Illinois in 1837,[2][3] and, in 1844, purchased an $8,000 farm, which he paid for by painting eight large religious canvases based on engravings of works by Benjamin West.[2] These canvases were exhibited in New York in 1847, but the whereabouts and status of all are currently unknown.[2]

Quidor returned to New York in 1851, where he stayed until his retirement in 1869.[2] During that period, his style had worsened. He simplified his compositions, and he also excessively thinned his colors with varnish, which made his stylized figures disappear into the background.[2] He eventually retired to Jersey City, New Jersey, where his eldest daughter lived, until his death in 1881.[1][2]


For years Quidor lived on a farm near Quincy, Illinois, but he returned to New York City in 1851. Little appreciated in his own time, he was obliged to support himself by painting the panels of stage coaches and fire engines. He apparently stopped painting in 1868, and died in 1881 in abject poverty. In 1942, an exhibition of his works at the Brooklyn Museum of Art led to his rediscovery as an important figure in American art.

His paintings establish a mysterious romantic setting for scenes in which he mingled macabre elements with an earthy humor. Many of his works, such as The Headless Horseman Pursuing Ichabod Crane, in the Smithsonian American Art Museum, were inspired by the writings of Washington Irving, who was a personal friend. Irving's A History of New York gave Quidor the subjects for the four paintings in the Brooklyn Museum of Art: Dancing on the Battery (c. 1860), Peter Stuyvesant's Wall Street Gate (1864), Voyage of the Good Oloff up the Hudson (1866), and The Voyage from Communipaw to Hell Gate (1866). These show Quidor's characteristic mellow and harmonious color, poetic imagination, and naïve humor.

Also in the Brooklyn Museum of Art are his three paintings: Dorothea, Money Diggers, and Wolfert's Will. He sometimes painted religious subjects, such as Jesus Blessing the Sick.

Further reading[edit]

  • Brooklyn Museum, & Baur, J. I. H. (1942). John Quidor, 1801-1881. [Brooklyn]: Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences. OCLC 4661047



  1. ^ a b c d e "John Quidor". National Museum of American Art. Retrieved August 10, 2012. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Caldwell, John; Rodriguez Roque, Oswaldo (1994). Kathleen Luhrs, ed. American Paintings in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Volume I: a Catalogue of Works by Artists Born By 1815. Dale T. Johnson, Carrie Rebora, Patricia R. Windels. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in association with Princeton University Press. pp. 479–482. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Roger Panetta, ed. (2009). Dutch New York: the roots of Hudson Valley culture. Hudson River Museum. pp. 223–235. ISBN 978-0-8232-3039-6. 

External links[edit]