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Last updated: 1/25/2017

Home / Gallery Tour 1 / Master Drawings_2003 / Gallery Tour 2 / Artists

Felix O. C. Darley (American, 1822-1888)

19th-Century Landscape Drawings I / 19th-Century LandscapeDrawings II / 19th-Century Genre: Places

19th-Century Portraits / 19th-Century Genre: People

Felix O. C. Darley / Lothar Meggendorfer / Adrian Ludwig Richter

Felix Octavius Carr Darley was born in Philadelphia in 1822. After selling some drawings to the Saturday Museum he moved to New York in 1848. In 1850 he was invited by the American Art Union to illustrate Washington Irving's works and his drawings for The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Rip Van Winkle established his fame. In the years that followed, he did illustrations for additional works by Washington Irving, plus stories, novels, and poems by James Fenimore Cooper, Hawthorne, Longfellow, John Greenlief Whitaker, James Whitcomb Riley, and Charles Dickens, among others. He also designed bank notes and bonds for the U.S. government. He was a charter member of the American Society of Painters in Watercolor and became a member of the National Academy of Design in 1852. After visiting Europe in 1863, he published Sketches Abroad with Pen and Pencil (1868). His drawings of the Civil War attracted praise at the Paris Exhibition of 1867. Shortly before his death he completed a set of illustrations for Shakespeare's plays. Perhaps the most popular American artist of the mid-century, he set a pattern for those who wanted to be artists but did not want to spend their lives seeking commissions for portraits or history paintings. Winslow Homer acknowledged that Darley's success gave him hope that he might also have a career as an artist.

Both in his time and in ours, Darley's importance was acknowledged. The New York Public Library, which in 1999 presented an exhibition of his works, said, "His works helped forge our national identity" and The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin called him "the most accomplished and prolific American illustrator before the centennial" (December, 2000, p. 52). In 1867, he was praised in The Book of the Artists, as "the first true illustrator of the American Spirit, a point that the The Philadelphia Inquirer reaffirmed in 1999, noting that Darley "dominated American . . . illustration for nearly a half-century."

Select Bibliography: American Drawings and Watercolors from the Collection of the University of Kansas Art Museum (Lawrence: University of Kansas Art Museum, 1973; includes six drawings by Darley); "...illustrated by Darley"; An Exhibition of Original Drawings by the American Book Illustrator (Wilmington: Delaware Art Museum, 1978; exhibition of 152 oringal drawings); Ethel King, ,Illustrated by F.O.C.Darley The Most Popular Illustrator of His Time (Brooklyn NY: Gaus, 1964; Selected Books illustrated by Darley: Felix O. C. Darley Sketches Abroad with Pen and Pencil (NY: Hurd & Houghton, 1869; this book illustrates and describes a European trip taken by the artist between June 1867 and June 1868. He visited England, France, Switzerland, Germany, Holland, Belgium and Italy. Printed at the Riverside Press. Illustrated by Darley); John S. Abbott, The History of the Civil War in America; Comprising a Full and Impartial Account of the Origin and Progress of the Rebellion of the Various Naval and Military Engagements Illustrated with Maps, Diagrams, and Numerous Steel Engravings of Battle Scenes from Original Designs By Darley and Other Eminent Artists and Portraits of Distinguished Men, 2 vols. (NY: Henry Bill, 1866); J. T. Trowbridge, The Vagabonds, Illustrated by F. O. C. Darley (Boston: Lee & Shepard, 1883); J.Fenimore Cooper's Sea Tales Illus.by F.O.C.Darley (NY: D.Appleton and Co, 1881); Washington Irving, The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent Illustrated by F.O.C. Darley (NY: George P. Putnam 1848);   Washington Irving, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Rip Van Winkle Illustrated by Felix O. C. Darley (NY: American Art - Union, 1848).

Mother and child. Pencil on thin paper. I have been informed by Carol Digel, the proprietor of the F. O. C. Darley website (http://www.focdarley.org), that our drawings "appear to be sketches he made in Italy. Darley and his wife traveled in Europe for 13 months in 1867-68. At that time he met Dore at a reception in Paris. He exhibited at the Paris exposition. Street Scene in Rome was exhibited at the Philadelphia Centennial." Image size: 80x60mm. Price: $925.
The Minstrel. Pencil on thin paper. I have been informed by Carol Digel, the proprietor of the F. O. C. Darley website (http://www.focdarley.org), that our drawings "appear to be sketches he made in Italy. Darley and his wife traveled in Europe for 13 months in 1867-68. At that time he met Dore at a reception in Paris. He exhibited at the Paris exposition. Street Scene in Rome was exhibited at the Philadelphia Centennial." Image size: 87x48mm. Price: $1075.
Sailors. Pencil on thin paper. I have been informed by Carol Digel, the proprietor of the F. O. C. Darley website (http://www.focdarley.org), that our drawings "appear to be sketches he made in Italy. Darley and his wife traveled in Europe for 13 months in 1867-68. At that time he met Dore at a reception in Paris. He exhibited at the Paris exposition. Street Scene in Rome was exhibited at the Philadelphia Centennial." Image size: 110x115mm. Price: $1075.

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