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Sydney Laurence
an Alaskan Landscape Painter
Sydney Laurence

Born: Brooklyn, NY
Studied: Art Students League, New York
Sydney Laurence Biography

Sydney Laurence was known for his dramatic landscape paintings of Alaska and was one of the first professionally trained artists to live in the Alaska Territory. Laurence was in the mainstream of a large group of young artists searching for a new way to paint landscape. Reacting against the theatrical, detailed and dramatic paintings of Albert Bierstadt, Thomas Hill, etc...Sydney Laurence and his colleagues were attracted to the more subdued tonalist style and plein-air naturalism of the Barbizon School painters. Sydney Laurence and many of his peers were also influenced by the work of the French Impressionists that painted from 1880 to 1915. Although Sydney Laurence's early work places him with American painters whose work embodied tonalism and/or impressionism, Laurence eventually developed his own signature style of painting, a combination of realism, tonalism, impressionism, luminism and atmospherics.

Laurence was a native of Brooklyn, New York, and attended Peekskill Military Academy in New York sometime before 1885. He exhibited paintings at the National Academy between 1887 and 1889, and was involved in the founding of the American Fine Arts Society. During this time, Sydney Laurence took courses at the Arts Students League.

In 1889, Sydney Laurence and his wife, Alexandrina Dupre, a New York artist who exhibited at the National Academy in 1889 and 1892, traveled to England where they spent most of the first year of their marriage at the artists' colony at Cornwell. From the mid-1890s, Sydney took jobs as an artist-war correspondent and traveled to various parts of the globe including to Africa, and China. While in Africa, Laurence lost his hearing covering the Zulu war.
Sydney Laurence left his wife and two young sons in England and traveled to Alaska around 1903, and from 1904 into 1908, was in Tyonek on the north shore of Cook Inlet, and in 1906, he filed claims near Talkeetna on Poor Man Creek. Although he had very little success as a miner, he continued to paint, including a canvas called "Cordova" that is in the Whatcom Museum in Bellingham, Washington. Laurence traveled to Cordova and painted there in 1908 and 1909, completing a 4-foot by 16-foot panorama. A Christmas postcard from his wife and children in 1904, addressed to him in Tyonek, Alaska, is the last known contact between the artist and his first family.

While in Valdez, Laurence heard about the mystical Mt. McKinley and journeyed there by steamer and dogsled. An awestruck Laurence promptly set up camp near the mountain and began painting what was to become his trademark subect. By the summer of 1913 he had already produced some 40 oil sketches of McKinley and by 1920, Sydney Laurence had established a studio in Anchorage and had become the territory's most prominent painter. In 1923 Laurence established a studio in Los Angeles. The rest of his life Sydney spent most winters in Los Angeles or Seattle, returning to Alaska to paint nearly every summer. Although Laurence produced many landscapes of Southern California and the Pacific Northwest, the vast majority of Sydney Laurence's paintings were depictions of various scenes within the Alaskan landscape.

Sydney Laurence died in Anchorage, Alaska, in 1940. A traveling retrospective exhibit of his work, "Sydney Laurence, Painter of the North", was held in 1990-1991. He was a member of the Royal Society of British Artists and the Salmagundi Club.

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