Even as a child, James Renwick Brevoort was sketching scenes in the rural Yonkers, New York countryside, foretelling a time when he would use numerous drawings in correlation with his works in oil and watercolor. Born in 1832, he began at age 18 to study architecture under the aegis of his cousin, James Renwick, a prominent architect. In 1854, Brevoort was awarded a certificate in architecture from New York University. He remained in New York City, and his interests returned to painting. Before long, Brevoort was exhibiting at the National Academy of Design, and studying there with Thomas S. Cummings. Brevoort's subject matter was often the traditional landscape view typical of the later years of the Hudson River School. Like other artists of the period, he left the city during the summers to find appropriate subject matter in rural Connecticut and upper New York State.
By the late 1850s, the titles of his paintings reflected his absorption in seasons, weather and the time of day; these continued to be variants in his landscapes. In the 1860s, he was influenced by Samuel Colman's work in watercolor, an appropriate medium for the shimmering quality of "native impressionism," which developed during the 1870s in works created by the Hudson River School.
Harvest Scene with Storm Coming Up (ca. 1862, Hudson River Museum) is perhaps his best-known work, and is certainly among the largest at 32 by 48 inches. It shows distant hills and clouds, with a creek and trees in the foreground; in the middle distance are farm workers and a wagon. The vista dwarfs the human figures.
In 1861, Brevoort was named an associate member of the National Academy of Design; two years later he was made a full member. In 1872, he was named professor of perspective at the National Academy.
Brevoort lost his first wife, and in 1873 married Marie Louise Bascom, an artist and first medallist of the National Academy School. In February of that year, he auctioned off the contents of his studio, including works by other artists, selling more than 150 landscapes. By the end of the year, he and his second wife were in Europe. Until 1880, he lived in Florence, where there was a colony of American artists. English moors and European scenes were among his subjects. After his return to the United States, he continued to make visits abroad.
From 1856 to 1890, Brevoort's works were exhibited at the National Academy. He also exhibited at the Boston Athenaeum, the Brooklyn Art Association, and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. For three years, from 1916 to 1918, his work was displayed at the Yonkers Art Association, which he helped establish. Brevoort died in Yonkers in 1918.
Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, New York
National Academy of Design, New York City
George Walter Vincent Smith Art Museum, Springfield, Massachusetts
Biography courtesy of Roughton Galleries, www.antiquesandfineart.com/roughton