History Colorado recently acquired a Harvey Otis Young painting from donor Shirley Weicz. Weicz believes the work was purchased in 1897 by her great-grandfather Benjamin Wisebart, or perhaps by his brother-in-law Abraham Jacobs. Both men settled in Central City in 1859 and together opened a men’s clothing store. Abraham married Benjamin’s sister Frances, who became known as the “Mother of Denver’s Charities”—her stained glass portrait still hangs in the state capitol dome.
The painting’s artist, Harvey Otis Young, had a lengthy career painting western landscapes, starting in 1859 when he moved from Vermont to California. A self-taught artist, Young’s first works were formulaic, but he returned to the east coast, traveled in Europe, and studied the works of more accomplished artists. He settled in New York, making annual forays to the West to sketch. When he finally decided to move to Colorado in 1879, he was drawn by the prospect of finding wealth in mining. After spending much of the 1880s seeking investors for Aspen silver mines, he decided to resume painting and moved to Denver in 1893. Through the late 1880s, Young had been involved with a group of Denverites concerned with art education. This group believed everyone should have a chance to study and enjoy superior art work in public exhibitions.
Young became a founding member of the Denver Artists’ Club, a group that admitted only artists as members. They held annual art exhibits beginning in early 1894. Around this time, Young increasingly worked with watercolor to create atmospheric landscapes with detailed foreground and opaque washes of color to indicate background distances and sky. He also experimented with adding touches of foreground color using oil paints. When this mountain landscape appeared in 1897, Young had perfected his technique. The painting closely resembles Young’s 1899 work Heart of the Rockies, owned by the Penrose Public Library in Colorado Springs.
It’s likely that both paintings resulted from one of Young’s sketching forays into the mountains. Though neither painting has a title identifying the exact location, Young’s paintings were always accurate representations of the chosen landscape. He painted Sultan Mountain in the San Juan Range and may have found the rugged peaks and the ridge seen in this painting there.
Moya Hansen, Department of Art and Design
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Stephen H. Hart Library and Research Center
History Colorado Center
Denver, CO 80203