John La Farge, American (1835 - 1910)
Born in New York City into a wealthy family of French Roman Catholic origin, La Farge grew up in a cultured and cosmopolitan household. Ambivalent about the career in law that he had begun to pursue, he went to Paris in 1856 and briefly studied painting with Thomas Couture. Returning to New York, he took a space in the new Tenth Street Studio Building in 1858. In spring 1859 he went to work with painter William Morris Hunt in Newport, Rhode Island, where La Farge maintained a residence until 1879. He began exhibiting at the National Academy of Design in 1862. La Farge's early experiments in still life and plein-air landscape were nourished by contemporary color theory and his appreciation of Japanese prints. In addition to painting, La Farge made illustrations for books and magazines between 1864 and 1878. In 1876 he began receiving commissions to decorate the interiors of churches, mansions, and private and public buildings that were being constructed or refurbished in response to post-Civil War prosperity and urban growth. He was the first American to devote himself extensively to mural painting; his stained-glass windows, which incorporate opalescent glass and other unconventional materials, were unprecedented.
La Farge, a man of great intellectual gifts, was omnivorously curious about history and art; he was a brilliant conversationalist and a critic who wrote for other artists and for the public. He counted among his friends the architects H. H. Richardson and Stanford White, the novelist Henry James, the psychologist William James, and thehistorian Henry Adams, with whom he traveled to Japan in 1886 and to the South Seas in 1890-91. At his death in 1910, La Farge was esteemed as a truly remarkable artistic personality.