The seascapes of Alfred Thompson Bricher embrace both realism and sublimity. While his works are masterpieces of beauty in great detail, they are also mesmerizing in their commitment to conveying atmospheric serenity. The widespread popularity that Bricher experience during his time, proven by his significant exhibition history, is testament to his ability to capture both literal excellence in nature as well as its figural beauty.
The well-known 19th century marine painter, Alfred Thompson Bricher, was born in Portsmouth, New Hampshire on April 10, 1837. Soon after, the Bricher family moved to Newburyport, Massachusetts where the young Alfred attended the local schools. Upon his completion of school Bricher moved to Boston, where he was employed in a dry goods store in 1851 and possibly studied at the Lowell Institute. Seven years later, at the age of twenty-one, the largely self-taught artist opened a studio in Newburyport, MA and began his artistic career.
In the years to follow, Bricher traveled on sketching tours throughout New England. In the same year that he opened his studio, 1858, he traveled to Mt. Desert Island, Maine with his friend William Stanley Haseltine. By the next year, Bricher has abandoned his studio in Newburyport for a new studio in Boston. At the time, it was recorded that he had completed some twenty paintings of Long Island, New York, the Catskills, and the White Mountains. By 1864 the precocious young man was exhibiting at the Boston Athenaeum and sketching on the lower Hudson River as well as in the mountains of New Hampshire. In the mid 1860s, Bricher began to work closely with L. Prang & Company, a Boston company responsible for inventing the chromolithograph, and offered chromolithographs of his paintings through their catalogue.
By 1868, Bricher had moved his studio to 40 West 30th Street in New York City, NY. This move soon paid off with the artist’s first exhibition at the National Academy of Design and at the American Society of Painters in Water Colors. Bricher would continue a close relationship with both these organizations throughout his career, exhibiting at both until his death. In 1870, he also exhibited at the Brooklyn Art Association before travelling on sketching trips up and down the Hudson River and throughout New Hampshire. The following year, Bricher embraced the subject for which he would be most recognized, sketching seascapes along the Atlantic coast, on Long Island and at Narragansett, Rhode Island.
It was during the last decade of the 1800s that Bricher began to experience considerable commercial success. Now exhibiting with the Schenck Art Gallery, in 1892 he sold some seventy-one watercolors and four oils for a total of $1,818.50. His reputation would continue to be greatly supported when he exhibited at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago the next year. It is important to note that although Bricher continued to experience popularity among the masses, he remained focused on natural scenic content, employing his skilled draftsmanship to realistically capture these scenes. His approach grew less popular as realism was beginning to be challenged by onset of Impressionist painting in France. For the remainder of the 1890s, Bricher exhibited works at National Academy of Design and the American Water Color Society, illustrated for The Quarterly Illustrator, and traveled on sketching trips to White Rocks and Monhegan Island, ME. In 1898, his work was carried by the Fifth Avenue Art Galleries.