John Sartain

John Sartain

Sartain, John, 1808-97, American engraver, b. London. Shortly after his arrival in the United States in 1830, he received important commissions for prints after paintings by leading artists. He is known for having introduced pictorial illustration as an important feature of American periodicals, most notably in Graham's Magazine and in Sartain's Union Magazine of Literature and Art, which he founded in 1849. He pioneered in mezzotint engraving in the United States, and produced many fine engravings after such painters as Benjamin West and Thomas Sully. His daughter, Emily Sartain, 1841-1927, b. Philadelphia, was an engraver and painter. She studied with her father and in Paris. Her painting The Reproof was exhibited at the Centennial Exposition, Philadelphia, in 1876. She executed some mezzotint engravings and in 1886 became principal of the Philadelphia School of Design for Women. A son, Samuel Sartain, 1830-1906, b. Philadelphia, was also an engraver. He studied mezzotint engraving with his father and engraved after paintings by C. W. Peale, Thomas Sully, and others. Another son, William Sartain, 1843-1924, b. Philadelphia, engraver and painter, studied with his father and in Paris. Achieving success in Europe with his romantic landscapes and genre and allegorical scenes, he returned to the United States (1877), where he divided his time between painting and teaching in New York City and Philadelphia. Among his highly popular canvases are Street in Dinon, Brittany (Corcoran Gall.) and Algerian Water Carrier (National Gall. of Art, Washington, D.C.).
John Sartain (24 October, 1808 in London, England - 25 October 1897 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) was an artist who pioneered mezzotint engraving in the United States.


John Sartain was born in London, England on 24 October, 1808. At the age of twenty-two he emigrated to America and settled in Philadelphia. Early in his career he painted portraits in oil and made miniatures. He engraved plates in 1841-1848 for Graham's Magazine, published by George Rex Graham (1813-1894), and believed his work was responsible for the publication's sudden success. Sartain became editor and proprietor of Campbell's Foreign Semi-Monthly Magazine in 1843 and from 1849-1852 published with Graham Sartain's Union Magazine.

Sartain was a colleague and friend of Edgar Allan Poe. Around July 2, 1849, about four months before Poe's death, the author unexpectedly visited Sartain's house in Philadelphia. Looking "pale and haggard" with "a wild and frightened expression in his eyes", Poe told Sartain that he was being pursued and needed protection; Sartain worried he was suicidal. Poe asked for a razor so that he could shave off his moustache to become less recognizable. Sartain offered to cut it off himself using scissors. Poe had said he had overheard people while on the train who were conspiring to murder him. Sartain asked why anyone would want to kill him, Poe answered it was "a woman trouble." Poe gave Sartain a new poem, "The Bells", which was published in Sartain's Union Magazine in November 1849, a month after Poe's death. Sartain's also included the first authorized printing of "Annabel Lee", also posthumous.

Sartain had charge of the art department of the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, in 1876; took a prominent part in the work of the committee on the Washington Memorial, by Rudolf Siemering, in Fairmount Park, Philadelphia; designed medallions for the monument to George Washington and Lafayette erected in 1869 in Monument Cemetery, Philadelphia; and was a member of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and a cavaliere of the Royal Equestrian Order of the Crown of Italy.

His Reminiscences of a Very Old Man (New York, 1899) are of unusual interest. Of his children William Sartain (1843-1924), landscape and figure painter, was born at Philadelphia on the 21st of November 1843, studied under his father and under Leon Bonnat, Paris, was one of the founders of the Society of American Artists, and became an associate of the National Academy of Design. Another son, Samuel Sartain (1830-1906), and a daughter, Emily Sartain (1841-1927), who in 1886 became principal of the Philadelphia School of Design for Women, were also American artists.


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