Harry Sunter Seascape

This seascape by Harry Sunter (1850 – 1900) came in with a sizable tear, an accident with the artwork placed in a car and then the family dog finding the same spot to lie down. The surface is also contaminated with particulates; and this happens to be one of those paintings that is more difficult to tell what effect on the colors the cleaning will have. But we do expect a more noticeable change in the sky area, which will strengthen the incredible detail of the three tiny ships on the horizon on the left side. Stay tuned for more …

Harry Sunter was one of the most accomplished and mysterious artists to have worked in the Finger Lakes, around Auburn, NY, in the late 19th Century. There is a remarkable painting of his in the collection of the Memorial Art Gallery, Rochester, “The Great Scull Race of July 4, 1878 at Skaneateles,” showing a race and celebration on the lake in downtown Skaneateles. He exhibited in the late 1880’s at both the National Academy of Design and at the Pennsylvania Academy but then suddenly disappeared from the scene.

A. T. Van Laer in 1918 in “Painters of Auburn” wrote: “When I first knew Sunter he was operating a camera in the gallery of Teneyck’s Copying House. On pleasant days, when he found the time to go sketching, I tried to go with him. Usually he went somewhere on the Outlet or at Buck’s Point on the lake and I used to watch him work. This was when I had begun to draw as a student at the Academy and as yet knew little of color, so it became my pleasant part to watch the mysteries of Sunter’s deft handling, as the bright tints of his palette found their way to the fast developing sketch on the canvas. It was marvelous to me then how he did it. Sunter had somehow imbibed Clough’s methods and later developed a pleasing sense of the picturesque. He too loved the sunshine, and I am sure, had he lived he would have taken in a large measure Clough’s place in the affections of Auburnians.

“Sunter made a trip to Block Island one summer and I shall never forget the eagerness with which we awaited his coming and the enthusiasm with which we looked through his summer’s work. Sunter did not live long after this and we have only the brilliant promise of what might have been a successful career.”

Sunter was also a student of William Henry Yates and he was probably a friend and colleague of William Bruce. A 1939 letter to Professor Long at the museum from Henry M. Allen of Auburn states that Harry Sunter married the sister of The Schweinfurth brothers, architects, who later funded the new Schweinfurth Art Center in Auburn.

 

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