Sydney Laurence (1865-1940)

Alaska’s most widely beloved historical painter, Sydney Laurence was the first professionally trained artist to make Alaska his home. He was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1865, and studied at the Art Students League in New York and exhibited regularly in that city by the late 1880’s. Settling in 1889 in the English artists’ colony of St. Ives, Cornwall, over the next decade he exhibited at the Royal Society of British Artists and was included in the Paris Salon in 1890, 1894, and 1895, winning an award in 1894. Laurence moved to Alaska in 1904 for reasons still unknown. Living the hard life of the pioneer prospector, he painted little in his first years in the territory, but between 1911 and 1914 he began to focus once again on his art. He moved from Valdez to the budding town of Anchorage in 1915 and by 1920 was Alaska’s most prominent painter. Laurence painted a variety of Alaskan scenes in his long and prolific career, among them sailing ships and steamships in Alaskan waters, totem poles in Southeast Alaska, dramatic headlands and the quiet coves and streams of Cook Inlet, cabins and caches under the northern lights, and Native Alaskans, miners, and trappers engaged in their often solitary lives in the northern wilderness, but the image of Mt. McKinley from the hills above the rapids of the Tokositna River became his trademark. It is this image more than any other which personifies Laurence for his many admirers and collectors in Alaska and beyond. Laurence forged a uniquely personal style by applying the tonalist techniques he had learned in New York and Europe to the wilderness of the North. He, more than any other artist, defined for Alaskans and others the image of Alaska as “The Last Frontier.” The artist died in Anchorage, Alaska in 1940.

Laurence’s paintings are in many private and public collections including:

Alaska Heritage Museum at Wells Fargo
Alaska State Museum
Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center
Dallas Museum of Art
Frye Art Museum
Rockwell Museum of Western Art
Seattle Art Museum
Shelburne Museum
Southhampton Art Gallery
The White House Permanent Collection

August Haze: Mt. McKinley, Alaska

by Sydney Laurence (1865-1940)

Medium DetailOil on canvas
Dimensions20 x 15 inches; Framed: 27 x 22 inches
Signed LocationLower left
Joseph Herman Romig, M.D., descended in family until the present

Provenance note:
Joseph Herman Romig, M.D., was a Moravian Missionary Society medical missionary in Alaska who arrived in Bethel in 1896, with his wife, Ella Mae Ervin Romig (1871-1937), a nurse. Romig became known as the “Dog-Team Doctor” for his expertise at mushing, as his practice stretched throughout the Yukon-Kuskokwim delta. He completed his seven-year mission in 1903, but afterwards, served as a U.S. commissioner, superintendent of schools, and chief railroad surgeon for the Alaska Railroad in Anchorage. He served as Mayor of Anchorage from 1937-1938.

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