signed JHDolph painted c. 1880-1890 oil on canvas mounted on a board dimensions 8.66 x 14.76 inches (22 x 37,5 cm) frame 15.35 x 20.47 (39 x 52 cm)
Provenance: From a Swedish private art collection
Essay: Born in 1835 by the tranquil shores of Lake George, New York, John Henry Dolph's journey in art began with an adolescent apprenticeship as a carriage painter in Columbus, Ohio. It was a modest start for a talent that would eventually grace the esteemed galleries of the National Academy of Design, where, upon his return to New York City in 1864, Dolph's works found an annual platform.
Initially, Dolph's repertoire consisted predominantly of landscapes—a mirror to the 1860s American vista. However, inspired by his studies in the storied cities of Antwerp and Paris, Dolph's focus shifted to the intimate charm of domestic animals, capturing the endearing nature of pets within his canvases. It was during this period that he crafted some of his most celebrated pieces, including the delightful scene of three kittens engaged in the simple pleasure of drinking milk. This painting is emblematic of Dolph's renowned era; his skill in rendering the feline subjects with a vivid lifelikeness is undeniable. The subdued grey and brown backdrop he chose ensures that the viewer's attention is captivated by the innocent allure of the kittens, showcasing Dolph's clever use of focus.
Dolph's acclaim was not confined to his artwork alone. In the vibrant New York art scene, he aligned himself with the avant-garde, joining the progressive circles of the Kit Kat Club, the Lotus Club, and the Salmagundi Club. His evolving status in the art community was cemented with his election as an Associate member of the National Academy of Design in 1877, culminating in his rise to full Academician in 1898.
Residing in the Sherwood Studio Building, New York City's pioneering artist's haven at 57th and 6th, Dolph lived amidst the creative vibrancy that characterized the late 19th century. John H. Dolph's life, dedicated to the pursuit and celebration of art, drew to a close in the city that had shaped his most illustrious years, on September 28, 1903. His legacy, encapsulated in the tender strokes that immortalize the charm of his feline subjects, remains a cherished chapter in the annals of American art history.
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