ALFRED THOMPSON BRICHER
"FIGURES BY A VALLEY STREAM, A WINTER SCENE," 1860
oil on canvas, 20 x 42 inches,
signed "A.T. Bricher" lower left.
Alfred Thompson Bricher was born in Portsmouth, New Hampshire and grew up in Newburyport, Massachusetts. During his 50-year career as an artist he became known for his luminist New England coastal seascapes. He was highly successful during his lifetime and exhibited regularly at galleries and venues including the Boston Athenaeum, the Brooklyn Art Association, the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago and the American Watercolor Society.
At 21-years old and primarily self-taught, Bricher opened his first studio in Newburyport. After opening his studio and beginning his serious pursuit of an artistic career, Bricher began to take sketching tours in New England. By 1860, he had moved to Boston and opened a new studio there. He visited Mt. Desert Island, Maine with William Stanley Haseltine and traveled to Long Island, New York, the Catskills, the White Mountains and the Hudson River. Bricher specialized in landscapes featuring placid inland bodies of water and picturesque scenes of the New England seaboard.
As a Luminist painter, he was predominantly interested in the pictorial effects of light and translucency. It is always possible to ascertain specifics such as the time of day, weather conditions, and geography in his work, yet his paintings manifest a spiritual quality that was an important component of Hudson River School. Today Bricher is widely appreciated by art historians for his mastery of Luminist realism.
The present canvas, Figures by a Valley Stream, A Winter Scene, dates to an early period in Bricher’s career. In this work, light is the primary subject. The sun setting behind the mountains creates shadows on the snow and reflections on the ice. Bricher successfully created a suffused warm glow in the sky and the atmosphere surrounding the scene.
In 1879, Bricher was elected an Associate member of the National Academy of Design. His work was seen regularly in the annual exhibitions of both the Academy and the American Watercolor Society. Bricher also exhibited at the Art Institute of Chicago, the Boston Art Club, and the gallery of James Gill in Springfield, Massachusetts.
Today works by Bricher can found in the permanent collections of many of America’s most prominent museums, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Brooklyn Museum of Art, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the White House, The Wadsworth Athenaeum and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.
By the time he died in 1908, Bricher’s career had spanned a period of momentous evolution in American art, indeed from the era of the Hudson River School to the imminent appearance of color abstraction. It is little wonder, then, that when Bricher died at New Dorp on September 30, 1908, his obituary commented, “[Bricher] did not receive the notice in the press that the artist’s ability and reputation deserved.”