By James F. O'Gorman
Expert in a variety of media, 19th-century artist Hammatt Billings (1818-1874) designed furnishings, statuary, monuments, structure, and private and non-private gardens. He was once a painter and portraitist and an illustrator whose drawings seemed in UNCLE TOM'S CABIN and LITTLE ladies. This publication reconstructs Billings's lifestyles and paintings. a hundred and one illustrations.
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Additional info for Accomplished in all departments of art--Hammatt Billings of Boston, 1818-1874
75 He not only illustrated John Ross Dix's Worth of the Worthless in 1853, he appears in the text. 79 Such facts portray a familiar man about towna designer integrated into the workaday world of Bostonrather than an aloof artist hidden in his garret. That such a noted player could so completely vanish from the stage of history is a wonder. Or rather, it says much about the class consciousness of traditional art-historical writing. As an illustrator Billings placed his pencil in the service of the great issues of his time, especially the three most important moral issues: war, intemperance, and slavery.
There was work designing war memorials. He continued to illustrate books, but fashions had changed, and his postwar production was small compared to his heyday in the 1850s. Ballou's had ceased publication; periodical illustration had moved to New York, where the work of Winslow Homer, who as a tyro learned much from Billings, continued to enliven the pages of Harper's. The unbalance toward building design in his late years is reflected in his obituaries, some of which recalled him primarily as an architect.
17). 6 The artist's style was derived from a long list of distinct sources, then, but Page 23 in its totality the work is particularly his own. Any perusal of English or French illustrations of the early or middle nineteenth century, or the work of older American contemporaries heavily influenced by the English, such as fellow Bostonian D. C. Johnston, reveals his innocence, his childlike grimness, his largely sober desire to get it right. Rarely does his work exhibit the bite of a Cruikshank or a Grandville, rarely any of their social or political parody.