EDWIN HOWLAND BLASHFIELD
"ADSPICE QUO FREMILU MONSTRALOS PERFERAT ICTUS"
oil on canvas, 25 1⁄2 x 56 inches,
signed "EH Blashfield" lower right.
“Along with William Morris Hunt and John LaFarge, Blashfield was one of the most prolific and important of the American mural painters.”1 Blashfield worked closely alongside the most prominent architects of his period to create impressive custom murals. These works can be seen in the dome of the Library of Congress, the Detroit Public Library, the Union League Club of Chicago, the Court House of Baltimore, the Cleveland Federal Building and the in the capitol buildings of Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota. His murals are also visible in numerous churches.
Blashfield was born and raised in New York City at the end of the nineteenth century. In the 1860s he studied in Boston with Thomas Johnston and William Rimmer. Then from 1867-1870 and 1874-1880 he went to Paris to study with Leon Bonnat and Jean-Leon Gerome. He also travelled to Germany, Italy and Switzerland. He returned to New York City for six years from 1881-1887 and then left for six years of travel to Egypt, Europe and England. In 1887 he spent the summer in Broadway, England with contemporaries Edwin Austen Abbey, Frederick Leighton and Lawrence Alma-Tadema.
All of his European travels and training are evident in his painting, which is highly academic and conservative. He rose to fame during the American Renaissance, a period of historical revivalism in the United States. In 1913, he published a book “Mural Painting in America,” compiling his lectures at the Art Institute of Chicago and championing mural painting.
Although best-known for his murals, Blashfield did easel paintings of similar subjects including genre, portraits, ancient ruins and Native American figures. Like his murals, the easel paintings were also meant to be read as historical subjects or moral themes. In the present canvas, “Adspice Quo Fremilu Monstralos Perferat Ictus,” two female women are fighting while a servant waits with water and a male figure watches the scene.
Although there were female gladiators, these women were probably patricians evident from their fine clothing, weaponry and attendant servant. They were probably fighting for sport and clearly for the amusement of the applauding man. The overall composition makes evident Blashfield’s training with Gerome and his admiration of classical, academic painters like Jaques-Louis David and Pierre Puvis de Chavannes.
Blashfield was the president of the National Academy of Design from 1920-1296. He was a
member of the Architectural League of New York, The National Sculpture Society and the national Society of Mural Painters. He exhibited his easel paintings at the National Academy of Design, the Paris Salon, the Brooklyn Art Association, the Pennsylvania Academy and the Royal Academy in London.
1 Peter Falk, “Who Was Who in American Art,” p. 344.