Elihu Vedder (1836 – 1923) was born in New York City. His father, a dentist, decided to try his luck in Cuba, and this had a profound impact on Elihu Jr.’s childhood. The remainder of his childhood was spent between his maternal grandfather Alexander Vedder’s house in Schenectady and a boarding school.
His mother supported his goals to be an artist while his father reluctantly assented, convinced that his son should try a different occupation. His brother, Dr. Alexander Madison Vedder, was a Navy surgeon who witnessed the transformation of Japan into a modern culture while he was stationed there.
Vedder trained in New York City with Tompkins H. Matteson, then in Paris with François-Édouard Picot.
Finally, he completed his studies in Italy – where he was strongly influenced not only by Italian Renaissance work but also by the modern Macchiaioli painters and the living Italian landscape.
He first visited Italy from 1858 until 1860, becoming deeply emotionally attached to fellow painter Giovanni Costa. Penniless, Vedder returned to the United States during the American Civil War and made a small living undertaking commercial illustrations. He was involved in the bohemian ‘Pfaff’s’ coffee house group and painted some of his most memorable paintings notable for their visionary nature, romantic imagery and often Oriental influences.
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