Harry A. Vincent, scenic artist

In 1922, Thomas Moses recalls working with Harry A. Vincent, Frank Peyraud, Victor Higgins, John H. Young, Edgar Payne and many other well-known artists. He writes:

“As I look backward over the names of the successful ones, I wonder what I would have done had I been gifted with the same amount of talent.

So it goes on, year after year, and you keep just a little bit ahead of the game, just enough to convince your friends that you are really a good fellow and that you haven’t abused their confidence.

But you are bound to look backwards and wish for the “Land of Beginning Again”

I wish that there were some wonderful place,
Called the “Land of Beginning Again”
Where all our mistakes and our heartaches
And all of our poor, selfish grief,
Could be dropped like a shabby old coat at the door
And never put on again.
(Louisa Fletcher Tarkington)”

An absolutely lovely sentiment and how close this hits to home!

My initial intent was to add a few images of each artists work, so I did a little research about the above mentioned artists that Moses referred to as the “successful ones” – cross-referencing the information with my database. Upon looking at their stories, legacies, and artworks, I think that I will present each one independently.

Today, I start with Harry A. Vincent (1864-1931).

Vincent appears in various articles and manuscripts, including Edward Fournier’s who recalls Vincent in 1927. Vincent was one of Fournier’s “pot boys.”

Brief side note on this title…I have stumbled across the designation of “pot boy” quite a bit lately, having never heard it before this year. It is another name designated to paint boys as it refers to one of their duties – keeping the “color pots” on the palette full. Keep in mind, not all paint boys advanced to artists as not every studio honored an apprentice system and just hired young boys to provided cheap labor (BIG surprise).

Vincent was born in Chicago in 1864 and started life as a scenic artist and was an artist for many other venues. Again, painting to make money with whatever came their way! He really leaned towards fine art and teaching though, teaching at the National Academy of Design in NY, the Art Institute in Chicago, the Carnegie Institute of Pittsburg and the Academy of Fine Arts (Pittsburgh). Vincent was also a member of the Salmagundi club (New York) with Moses and many others, winning the 1907 Shaw Prize and the 1916 Isador prize.

Crossing the country, he continued work as a scenic artist and exhibit fine art. Finally in 1918 he was elected as an Associate for the National Academy of Design (NY). As with most late-nineteenth-century and early-twentieth-century scenic artists (that I have studied), their fine art complemented their studio work. Plus, I believe that there is a practical training and study when one paints small and paints large – really large. The artist gathers the best tools and techniques from both worlds to artistically learn and grow in every aspect.

In 1893 at the age of 31 yrs. old, he applied for a position with Moses at Sosman and Landis Studio, but by 1898 decided to leave for NYC. In New York, he works for Gates & Morange. In some cases, Moses urges people not to enter the field of scenic art and continue on a path toward fine art – noting the physically strenuous work of the studio.

One example of Vincent’s scenic art work was for the “Flag of Truce” for William Haworth. For this project, he painted with A. J. Rupert, Thomas Moses, and Frank Peyraud, plus a number of other artists and assistants.

Attached are some examples of his fine art work.





Historical Excerpt – “The Scene Painter is No Ghost” and Charles Graham, part 2

Here are a few examples of Charles Graham’s artwork. I introduced him in my post yesterday (“The Scene Painter is No Ghost”) as an inspiration for Thomas Moses during 1874. Graham was primarily an illustrator but also worked as a scenic artist in Chicago and New York from 1874-1877.
I have included some of his illustrations for the Columbian Exposition in 1893 as he was one of the official artists for the world’s fair.

Historical Excerpt – “The Scene Painter is No Ghost” and Charles Graham, part 1

For today’s post, I started with an article that I stumbled across years ago. It reminded me of an old Ebay purchase. This print has travelled with me, always being on hand to frame at some point. For me, it as it captured the essence of the 1870s scenic artist working high about the stage on a paint bridge.
Amazingly, the man that created this 1878 illustration, was one of Thomas Moses’ earliest inspirations when he encountered the field of scenic art. This happened in 1874 while he was working for Jevne & Almini – fresco decorators – at the age of 18 yrs. old on a project at Hooley’s Opera House.
I did some research, connected a few dots, and voila!
The Sunday Telegraph, New York, September 28, 1902, “The Scene Painter is No Ghost”
“How man theatregoers can give the names of three scene painters in New York? Playhouse patrons admire their art, and even applaud it on opening night, but they know nothing about it, and it is a most unusual occasion when the artist is called before the curtain. He is not discussed at clubs or in the drawing rooms. The cheapest show girl in a Broadway burlesque, with just about brains enough to remember he name over night, gets her picture in the magazines several times in the course of a season and is written about as if she really was of some importance.
Up on the paint bridge, seventy feet above her head, is the scene painter. He is putting the finishing touches to a drop that has taken him many days to paint and more years of hard study to learn how. The press agent never worries him for his photograph, the dramatic reporters couldn’t find him if they went back on stage. The show is over, the lights are put out and a deathly stillness settles upon the theatre. The watchman lazily makes his rounds and finds the scenic artist and his assistants at work finishing a drop or a border or priming new ones. When the artist leaves the theatre the streets are still. He reaches home and over his pipe wonders if the game is worth the candle.”
And here is the artist for the illustration:
Charles S. Graham (1852-1911) was born in Rock Island, Illinois. He became a topographer in 1873 for Northern Pacific Railroad. Completing surveys of Montana and Idaho, this position trained him as a skilled draftsman and artist. From 1874 to 1877 he painted theatrical scenery in Chicago and New York. Between 1879 and 1891, he exhibited watercolors with the American Watercolor Society, and two years later was named an official artist for the 1893’s Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition.
Between 1883 and 1896 he was a member of the Bohemian Club and San Francisco Art Association, producing many scenes of Colorado, the Dakotas, and New Mexico for the Northern Pacific Railroad. He was an avid traveler and visited New Orleans in 1884, returning and making an extensive tour of the south with Horace Bradley. These two artists’ trop resulted in a series of illustrations for Harper’s Weekly. After 1900, Graham painted mainly in oils, but is primarily remembered as an illustrator.
Graham started as the staff artist at Harper’s Weekly in 1878 and remained there until 1892, leaving to travel and continue as a freelance artist. Although still contributing to Harper’s, other companies that he worked for included the New York Herald, the Chicago Tribune, the American Lithograph Company and Collier’s. While working in New York, Graham passed away at the age of 59 yrs. old.
Thomas Moses recalls Graham’s work at Hooleys theatre in Chicago during in 1874. In his typed manuscript, he wrote,” In June I was sent to Hooleys Theatre to work. On the scenery was employed J. Francis Murphy and Chas. Graham. I was put in charge of the proscenium boxes, mostly gilding. I could see the work being done on the paint frame. I was more convinced that scenery was what I wanted to do; more opportunity to do landscapes.”
Hooley’s Opera House, the Parlor of Home Comedy, was dedicated on 21 October 1872, later to be known as Hooley’s Theater, a title destined to stand for almost twenty-five years. Mr. Hooley and his stock company first appeared on Monday evening, 31 August 1874. The theater’s address was 124 West Randolph Street, occupying a street frontage on Randolph of only 23 feet. The theater had a seating capacity of 1,500, although some sources say that it felt cramped with this many people. The stage was 50 feet wide and 65 feet deep with rear door that was 180 feet from the entrance of the building. It’s exterior was constructed of cut stone and iron and it measured four stories high.
Furthermore, there were lodge rooms on the upper floors.
Every small and crooked path leads to another wonderful discovery this month!

Historical Excerpt – Thomas Moses, “The Brook,” part 5

Fifth and final part written by Thomas Gibbs Moses (1856-1934) in 1932

“In my outdoor sketching in pencil I go much further that the average artist. I get the detail carefully, even is I don’t want to use it later. I feel safe in having it before me while it is much pleasanter to work in my studio on finishing a picture where I am free from all annoying insects and cattle. I will always take a chance out of doors. It is hard for me to decide as to the best sketching grounds. They are all good. The coast of Maine especially around Kennebunkport is the most picturesque. Ogunquit is also famous for the sketching of Chas. Woodbury the marine painter from New York City. I have travelled many times to Kingston and Ellenville on the edge of the Catskills where I made some of my most interesting woods, then back to New Hampshire near Woodstock at the base of Mt. Washington, where I struck a virgin forest of wonderful birches. Down in West Virginia along the Buckwater River are picturesque Falls in the Autumn. I found a lot to paint – dark hemlock, dainty birch and beech. Colorful maples and chestnuts supported by grey granite boulders, moss covered, and partly buried with fall leaves, very interesting.

A trip down the French Broad River in North Carolina south of Asheville gave me some very interesting sketches. The illustrator of Picturesque American found a lot to sketch and plenty to write about down this mall interesting river. Back to Chattanooga I found a lot to do that was interesting. Going away back to 1885 when four of us boys found ourselves in camp nine thousand feet above sea level in the Rocky Mtns. Near Breckenridge, and here was our first experience with Mountain climbing and sketching. It was a wonderful trip.

Of late I have enjoyed sketching in and about Oakland, California during our stay there of three winters. The docks were full of good motifs. Mt Shasta and canyons have received my attention several times, as well as Mt. Ranier, which I have made the subject of several big canvases. I was very much disappointed in my trip to Lake Louise and Banff. While the Canadian Rockies are very majestic and plenty of snow and glaciers, they lack the color that the Colorado Rockies have. The best part of the Canadian Rockies is in the part West and South of Lake Louise through which we were sent during the night. A trip from Los Angeles to the Mojave Desert gave me a good idea of desert painting and Mt. Whitney gave me a thrill which I would like to repeat. Several trips to La Jolla gave me what I wanted from the Pacific Ocean. After all is said, I find good sketching everywhere from a quiet scene at Fox Lake, our Old Palette and Chisel Club Camp, to the highest point in the United States, Mt. Whitney.
My stock of old oils sketches range from 6” x8” to 40” x 50” and number fully 600. Water color and tempura another 200. Pencil sketches 400. So I have 1200 sketches to choose from when I want to paint a picture.
The oil show the best possibilities of becoming pictures. The water colors and tempura are more finished and will pass muster.

At this writing there is a Street Fair of Pictures going on near the Art Institute where pictures are traded for all sorts of food and small cash price. I regret that has to be done, as it belittles art, and brings prices for painting to a ridiculously low price. The well known artists of ability do not participate in this. The majority are the Art Students that are studying at the several art schools and are going in for the Modern type of picture.
I have thoroughly enjoyed many years of broken time of sketching and painting and I sincerely hope that some of my pictures will live long after me and be enjoyed by others as they did me in the making of them.

Leaves that idly dance above

Ferns that shiver by the stream

Each recall an olden love

Each recall a summer’s dream.”

The End.

Mt. Ranier in 1925, Waszut-Barrett Collection

Historical Excerpt – Thomas Moses, “The Brook,” part 4

“At this season of the year there is little bird song to be heard, the scream of the jay, delightful to me for some obscure reason in spite of its harshness is heard now and then. Chickadees are saying their own names over and overs in the pine grove, changing now and then to the whistled minor interval they have taken from the phoebe and improved upon. The blue birds and robins are convening for their long flight and their restless chirping notes express in the same breath both reluctance and eagerness to be gone. Far up above a crow is cawing as he flaps heavily over with a whole dome of the sky for his sounding board. On a dry bough of a nearby tree a woodpecker is drumming, not interrupting but seeming to deepen and intensify the stillness of the woods. Under the songs of leaves, insect and birds, there lives another sound far more tenuous and ethereal to which a trained intensely listening ear can sometimes pierce. That is
Little noiseless noise among the leaves
Born of the very sigh that silence heaves – Keats
A woodchuck is scurrying along the top of a low stone wall, growling at me, for my intrusion. Of all wild animal life that I meet in the woods, a woodchuck or ground hog is the only one that I am not interested in. They are repulsive to me. I love to hear the chatter of the squirrels, especially when I invade their special domain. I love to lingering the woods until the sun has set, so I can study the wonderful lace effect of the foliage silhouetted against the brilliant sky. Leaving the woods behind and making my way across the fields to the country road to meet the boys, or afoot or horseback, driving their cattle home from the rich pastures, brings one out of his day dream, back to the realism of life that is filled with grief and disappointment in our inability to convey to nature our sketch block and feel satisfied with the result.”

Historical Excerpt – Thomas Moses, “The Brook,” part 3


This is a perfect description of how time stands still when you paint out of doors.  The music of the nature around you takes over – especially the trees.

Like most scenic artists, I gained experience in a variety of shops where music played in the background and your mind is occupied by the lyrics when you paint. Classical music was always my my preferred selection as I could listen, solve the world’s problems, and instinctively apply paint to the canvas.  When I thought too hard about what I was painting, I overworked it. I needed to mentally multitask to get the best results – at least that is what I have told myself for years.

After reading another section Moses’ text, however, I remembered teaching plein air painting on our Cambridge property for a few years for community education.  It was so peaceful as we painted in those early spring and fall days, setting up our easels next to the Rum River.

This is one of the few times since moving to the cities in 2015 that I truly miss living the middle of the woods, far away from the concrete and noise of civilization.

“Every other voice was shut away by the voice of the stream as by a closed door, so that I sat in a little solitude of sound. The brook and I were alone, together. By the side of running water my thoughts, if I think at all, are born away on the waves, leaving me with no measure of time. The minutes grown into hours so that when I come to leave I take with me no definitive memories, no deepened wisdom, only a vague sense that I have been happy and nothing could have been added to make it a more perfect day. A thunderstorm in the woods crushes out of recognition all the separate language of the trees sweeping them into a wild confusion of leafy tongues. I find I can distinguish the deep base tone of the pine grow behind me from the whistle of the beeches in front. One can hardly mistake a pine tree at midnight. The wind is imprisoned among its thickest needles and issues from then in a sound always likened to that of ocean surf. In the beech, however, it clashes and rasps its way across flat hard, almost metallic surfaces. The beach is like a beautiful woman with an unpleasant voice. The oak would give little trouble in the darkest night, for the flapping of oak leaves again the twigs is the driest sound in nature.”


Our home in Cambridge, MN

Historical Excerpt – Thomas Moses, “The Brook,” part 2

“The Brook” written by Thomas Gibbs Moses (1856-1934), August 1932 at the age of 76 yrs. old.

Here is the second installment:

“The impressionistic painter would be quite justified in attending chiefly to more obvious aspects of the brook scenery, not only because these are all that he can hope to represent, but also because the effects of running water almost infinitely vary as a close examination finds them to be, are composed of a few fundamental forms, the attending pool, slow water, the slide, the rapid, the eddy, the curve, and the full, which is alphabet of the brook in which all their endless literature is written. No two pools are exactly alike and no two eddies or waterfalls. Like my own life the brooks says the same thing over and over without ever representing itself, and I think I could listen to it forever. The brook is the oldest thing we know and the youngest as well. It has no age. It is time racing down forever through the channels of eternity. Waves of the sea and of rivers constantly shift from place to place because they are not controlled by solid bodies of earth or rock, but the ridge and hollows of the brook surface are stable without being rigid. I am always happy near running water, which I discover by always going to the bottom of every little valley where a brook is flowing.

The brook moves in rhythm, like music and poetry and dance, and it recalls these arts that we have devised to express the inexpressible. I know how gladly it would linger in the sunny pool, but I know also that it is drawn downward to the great sea by a deeper fascination. As the day wanes and the lengthening shadows and sunlight was striking upwards among the leaves and from the ripples of the brook I sat in a happy mood as water slipped swiftly by. Upon the current were sailing here a yellow leaf of alder and there a curled gray leaf of willow, and the waves that sustained these tiny skiffs were topaz, amber or maroon, according to how the rocks over which they ran varied in hue or as the sunlight struck them.”

And here are some detail images from a Moses’ painting:



Historical Excerpt – Thomas Moses, “The Brook,” part 1

I am taking a break from Andrew Geis to share some lovely text from Thomas Gibbs Moses (1856-1934). He was a scenic artist for theatre, opera, world fair exhibits, midway amusement, circus spectacles, fraternal degree productions and other artforms.
“The Brook” written by Thomas Gibbs Moses (1856-1934), August 1932 at the age of 76 yrs. old. Moses was a member of the Salmagundi Club (NY, sponsored by R. M. Shurtleff), Chicago Palette and Chisel Club (Chicago), and the Laguna Beach Art Association (California).
I decided to share as the first paragraph just about brought me to tears this evening. I not only sympathized with his personal situation, but a shift of aesthetic in the art world around him.
Here is the first installment of his writing:
“For the first time in my life I have succeeded in stealing enough time away from my business to do some real honest painting. One reason that I have had time is because there is no business. In digging out some of my old canvases that I did thirty years ago, which were only in the sketch stage, I find plenty of good material to advance the sketch to picture quality. Too bad that I was not able to do that process of advancement out of doors. I certainly lose a lot of real honest technique that out of doors always gave me. I have been quite fortunate in being able to collect a great many pencil sketches that has given me a lot of subjects, so I am not apt to fake any picture. As I have the truth and a story with each sketch. In giving these old and new canvases a final touch I find I have a great variety of sizes and subjects that ought to fit any one’s purse and wall space. My painting is of the old school, which to me is what I see in nature, my honest impression, which I have been honest in expressing the same – while some of the young artists just starting in the art world are being convinced that the radical modern idea is one big school to follow. I will cling to the Hudson River School of Painting that made George Innes, R. M. Shurtleff, A. H. Wyant, Robert Minor and many more.
There are too many so-called “Moderns” that know very little of the rudiments of art, faulty in drawing and color, they use the term “Modern” and in some galleries they are welcomed as such, and receive good notice from a few critics. My love for the deep forests led me to the Studio of R. M. Shurtleff in New York, whom I considered a wonderful painter of the woods. I was very happy when he consented to take me on as a pupil. When he suggested my joining the famous Salmagundi Club I was doubtful if I could make it. As the picture I gave the club for my initiation fee was sold to one of the club members, this alone placed me in a good position and had I remained in New York instead of coming to Chicago I feel that I would have forged ahead in the higher art, and would have succeeded. I might not have been so successful financially as I have been in Scenic Painting but am sure that I could have gone to nature each summer and made by studies of a little stream… six or seven feet in width, once not more than ten inches deep in most places, flows down before me through a glade of pines, coming out of a clearing just visible through the dark stems above and going down into another. There is a deep shadow, of the peculiarly lustrous and richly colored kind that only pines can throw. The banks on either side are purple with pine needles. The forest brook provides the best possible education for the eye. There is always more to be seen in it than any one has seen. A man may gaze at a small patch of stream until he thinks he has exhausted every trait of motion shape, and hue, then he looks again and finds that he has just begun to spell out its primer. Not that a brook ever tries to hide anything for is nothing more frank and generous in self-revelation, but its carvings are so many and its nuances of color so fine, its endless dance is so full of what looks like pure whim and caprice, that it daunts and finally eludes the most patient skill of the eye. One who has learned to see a brook can see anything.
A painter of the modern schools would represent the brook as simply as possible, noting down first of all the supple bending of the banks and recording the vivid contrasts of gleam and gloom. But he would actually see far more than this, finding between the extreme of shade and shine a whole gamut of lighting of steely and soft translucence, of colors nameless and numberless reflected from the sky and the boughs of striking upwards from the pebbled bed. One begins to see the brook accurately and so to discover the true beauty of running water only when he learns that it is wonderfully varies, that it is scored with minute and even minuter subdivisions that finally go beyond the power of any eye and one seen by the fancy only, by an imagination half poetical and half scientific.
I’ll do another installment some other day. There will be about four total.
His historical context for his text:
Moses’ painting career spanned from 1873-1934. He primarily worked for Sosman & Landis, a scenic studio in Chicago. However, he often departed from the business in the early years to strike it out on his own or with a few fellow artists to form a studio. From 1900-1904, he worked in New York on Broadway and for Luna Park at Coney Island.
My personal reason for sharing: I fell in love with this man’s writing when I first indexed his typed manuscript and scrapbook for Prof. Emeritus C. Lance Brockman in the early 90s. At that same time, I was fortunate enough to receive a Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program Grant to process the Great Western Stage Equipment Company and the Holak Collection (Sosman & Landis and New York Studios) for the University of Minnesota Libraries Performing Arts Archives – both Masonic design collections that are now available online (with the Twin City Scenic Studio and Northwestern Studio collections).
Studying these small Masonic designs (watercolor and gouache paintings), cleaning, processing, and replicating them (large-scale with dry pigments) forever shaped my future. I traced the career of Moses and his artwork, primarily restoring collections that he supervised or painted a few landscapes. At that point I fell in love with his painting for the stage.
One of the greatest highlights of my career was discovering some of his personal artifacts left high above the stage at the Fort Scott Scottish Rite in November 2015 – they are now at the Minnesota Masonic Heritage Center, along with his scenery collection painted in 1924. This collection not the best example of scenic art; he was aging and ill, but it is innovative and shows a culmination of experience gained throughout the duration of his career. It also provides great artistic provenance for this significant collection. An overall use of brighter colors mirrors the shifting aesthetics in the scenic art trade.
Moses’ writing gives a personal touch to his artwork that is displayed some Scottish Rite theaters. Just like all artists that leave memoirs, you have a sense of who they were, what they loved, and how they lived life. He was a romantic, yearning for more time to paint outside of a studio.
Attached are some examples of his fine art and his personal artifacts left onsite in Fort Scott, KS.
Painting from online source
Painting from online source
Painting from online source
Painting from my collection, 1925
Moses’ paint brush from Fort Scott, Kansas
Moses’ paint sweater left on site in Fort Scott, Kansas
Note the petals found in his pocket!
Moses’ paint cap
The charcoal used to draw compositions on the stage drops in Fort Scott, Kansas