John Bunyan Bristol
American, 1826-1909

John Bunyan Bristol, N.A., landscape-painter, was born in Hillsdale, New York, March 14, 1826. His early life was a struggle without aid, instruction, or sympathy. At the beginning of his career he painted figures and portraits, but afterward turned his attention exclusively to landscapes. His studies were from nature.

He was primarily a self-taught artist, however, he did study briefly with the landscapist Henry Ary (a four-week course), who moved to the Hudson area in the early 1840s. Painters in Hudson were noted as landscape specialists, and Ary, who was known for his picturesque views of the town and nearby Mount Merino, was the instructor in painting and drawing at the Hudson Female Academy, and had some influence on artists in the area. Unlike his contemporaries Asher B. Durand, John W. Casilear, and John F. Kensett, he never traveled to Europe, but Bristol's distinctive style was consistent with the early spirit of the Hudson River School.

Bristol became a highly accomplished artist who painted most extensively in the Adirondacks, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Vermont. He produced works displaying land, water and mountain views with a luminous quality. In 1860 he made his home in New York City, finding inspiration for his landscapes in the Berkshire Mountains, along the New Jersey coast, around Lake George and Lake Champlain, the Connecticut River Valley, the Green Mountains and throughout New England.

As Samuel Isham inThe History of American Painting, 1942 observed: "No one constructs a landscape more firmly than he; the solidity of the earth, the level of the lake, the plane of the distant hills, the enveloping of all by the summer sky with sunlit clouds – all are given with an absolute sureness…". Like his colleagues Kensett and Durand, with whom he is often compared, Bristol accurately captured the spirit of the landscape while remaining true to the ideals of the Hudson River School.

He was a member of the National Academy of Design, the Century Association 1873-1909, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, and the Artists Fund Society. John Bristol was elected an associate academician in 1860, and a full member in 1875. Although Bristol lived in New York City, he traveled and painted throughout New England almost every summer. In 1859, he traveled to Florida producing several works of the St. Johns River and of St. Augustine.

Exhibitions include the National Academy of Design from 1858 to 1900; the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia in 1876, where he was awarded a medal; the Paris Salon Exposition of 1889, where he won a prize; the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo in 1901, where he also received a medal; Brooklyn Art Association 1862-1884; Boston Art Club 1877 and 1885; Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts 1888; and Art Institute of Chicago, 1888-1901.

His work is represented in many private and public collections including: Smithsonian American Art Museum, Yale University Art Gallery, Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hudson River Museum, George Walter Vincent Smith Museum, Middlebury College Museum of Art, Robert Hull Fleming Museum, Huntington Library & Gallery Peabody Institute in Baltimore.

John Bunyan Bristol died on August 31, 1909, at the Home of Incurables in New York City, where he was hospitalized for a year after suffering from paralysis following a massive stroke.

Peter Hastings Falk, Editor, Who Was Who In American Art
Celebrating Florida – Works Of Art From The Vickers Collection
Smithsonian Archives
Other Internet Resources