Vedder, Elihu, 1836-1923

Alternative names
Birth 1836-02-26
Death 1923-01-29

Biographical notes:

Painter; New York, N.Y.

From the description of Elihu Vedder letters, 1870-1880 and [undated]. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 122502860

Elihu Vedder was an American artist, known for his mystical and imaginative works, probably best remembered for his illustrations for the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. Born in New York and raised in Schenectady and Cuba, Vedder apprenticed with an architect and studied with a painter before travelling to Europe to study painting. He returned to New York and worked as a painter and illustrator, but settled in Rome and later Capri; he had a long career as a painter and designer, creating illustrated books, Tiffany glass, mosaic, murals, and metalwork. Vedder also wrote an autobiography and two volumes of verse, and was friends with many authors and artists of his time in Europe and the United States.

From the description of Elihu Vedder letter to Brentano and bookplate design, 1910 Oct. 11. (Pennsylvania State University Libraries). WorldCat record id: 72827485

American painter and illustrator.

From the description of Autograph letter signed : New York, N.Y., to Mrs. Laura W. Johnson, 1882 Jun. 28. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 270583233

American artist and illustrator.

From the description of Autograph card signed : Rome, to Dr. Baldwin, Monday [n.d.]. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 270861014

American artist.

From the description of Letter : Rome, to Charles E. Rice, Alliance, Ohio, 1912 March 8. (Bryn Mawr College). WorldCat record id: 36787461

Vedder, an American artist, was particularly known for his illustrations for Edward FitzGerald's The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.

From the description of [Letter] 1891 Dec. 17, 68 Capeole Case [to] Mr. De Vinne / Ellihu Vedder. (Smith College). WorldCat record id: 503085286

Painter, muralist, sculptor, illustrator, writer; Rome and the Isle of Capri, Italy.

Born in NYC. Symbolist painter.

From the description of Elihu Vedder papers, 1804-1969 (bulk 1840-1923). (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 220173294

Painter, muralist, sculptor, illustrator, writer; Rome and the Isle of Capri, Italy.

b. 1836, New York, N.Y.; d. Jan. 29, 1923, at the age of 87; Symbolist painter.

From the description of Elihu Vedder papers, 1804-1969, bulk 1840-1923. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 317592389

Elihu Vedder was born in New York in 1836. He grew up in Cuba, where his father worked as a dentist, and on his grandfather's farm in Brooklyn. He was educated in boarding schools and by tutors, and showed an interest in drawing at an early age. He began his formal training with T. H. Matteson in New York, and went on to study with Francois-Edouard Picot in Paris and Raffaello Bonaiuti in Florence.

After studying in Europe for several years, Vedder returned to the U.S. in 1860 and settled in New York, where he worked as a commercial illustrator during the Civil War. In 1864, he was one of the artists who illustrated the first American edition of Tennyson's Enoch Arden, which was published by Ticknor and Fields. During this time, he became associated with a bohemian group of artists and writers that regularly met at Pfaff's coffee shop. Some of the earliest exhibitions of his work took place at the annual spring exhibits at the National Academy of Design from 1863 to 1865. He became a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1865. After the war he returned to Europe, eventually settling permanently in Italy.

In 1869 Vedder married Elizabeth Caroline Beach Rosekrans (Carrie). They lived in Rome, where Vedder earned his living by undertaking commissioned work (what he termed "duty painting") while also producing paintings on original themes and subjects, such as The Cumaean Sibyl (1875-1878) which became one of his most celebrated paintings. Vedder's wife aided him in his work by cultivating patrons and carrying out all the business correspondence. Over the years he exhibited his work in London, Paris, New York and Boston (where it was especially well-received). While achieving a certain degree of success, he struggled throughout his career to make a living as an artist.

Vedder also carried out work on commission, designing covers for Century Magazine in 1881 and illustrations for various other publications such as Harper's . He experimented in other decorative arts also, designing glass ringwork, firebacks, and tiles; apart from some commissions for glass work from Tiffany's, these other projects never really got off the ground.

Vedder made his biggest contribution to American commercial art in 1884 with his illustrations of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam . Exhibitions of the original drawings followed, which were well-attended by the public; he also painted and sold several pictures from the Rubaiyat drawings. In the 1890s he undertook several mural projects, including ones for the Walker Art Building at Bowdoin College and the Library of Congress.

In the early 1900s, Vedder built a villa on the island of Capri, where he spent the summers and falls while continuing to live the rest of the year in Rome. From this point on, he didn't undertake any new major paintings, but instead turned to writing and illustrating books of autobiography and verse. His books include The Digressions of V (1910), Miscellaneous Moods (1915), and Doubt and Other Things (1922).

Vedder died on January 29, 1923, at the age of 87.

This biographical note draws from Regina Soria's biography, Elihu Vedder: American Visionary Artist in Rome (Rutherford: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1970).

From the guide to the Elihu Vedder papers, 1804-1969 (bulk 1840-1923), (Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution)


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  • Artists--Correspondence
  • Painters--Italy--Rome
  • Artists' studios--Photographs
  • Art, American
  • Painters
  • Painting, Italian--19th century
  • Artists' writings
  • Illustrators--Italy--Rome
  • Painting, Modern--19th century--Italy--Rome
  • Illustrators


  • Artists


  • Italy--Rome (as recorded)
  • Rome (as recorded)
  • New York (State)--New York (as recorded)
  • Italy--Rome (as recorded)
  • Rome (as recorded)