Painter and architect Jasper Cropsey was born in Rossville, New York on February 18, 1823. As a young boy, Jasper was susceptible to frequent health problems and passed the time by sketching landscapes. At the age of 14, Jasper entered and won an architectural model contest and received a diploma from the Mechanical Institute of New York. Shortly thereafter, Cropsey began a 5 year apprenticeship with the architect Joseph Trench. Trench quickly realized Jasper’s talent and supplied him with ample studio space and art supplies in order to cultivate Jasper’s skills. In 1842, Jasper Cropsey began his own architectural commissions as well as featured an exhibition in the National Academy of Design entitled “Italian Compositions”.
Jasper Cropsey focused on landscape painting. He felt that landscapes were the highest art form and that nature was a direct manifestation of God. Cropsey also felt a patriotic affiliation with nature and saw his paintings as depicting the rugged and unspoiled qualities of America. To Cropsey and other members of the Hudson River School, painting landscapes became a uniquely American style and they strove to depict nature scenes with the keenest attention to details and accuracy. In 1844 at 21 years old, Jasper Cropsey became the youngest member of the Academy of Design and quickly grew in fame and renown.
In 1847, he met and married Miss Maria Cooley, and they traveled to Europe for their honeymoon. In Europe, Cropsey began sketching European ruins as well as composing figurative works. The Cropseys returned to America in 1849 and traveled throughout America stopping in the Hudson Valley, Vermont, New Hampshire and Niagra Falls. During this period, Cropsey produced a great deal of work that further increased his renown. Cropsey continued to work on his landscapes as well as Christian and morality scenes. In 1855, he auctioned all of his work and traveled to Europe with Maria where they lived for 7 years. The English were very much impressed with Cropsey’s view of autumn in America and could not believe the brilliant reds and golds of his fall scenes. Cropsey became known to the English as “America’s painter of autumn” and in 1861 he was presented to Queen Victoria.
The Cropseys returned to America in 1863 after auctioning all of Jasper’s work in England. Due to the intensification of the Civil War, Jasper had to teach art classes and take architectural commissions in order to augment his income. During this time, Jasper Cropsey designed one of the first apartment houses in America as well as the Gilbert Elevated Railway Station. In 1846, the Cropseys purchased a 45 acre property in Warwick, NY that they named “Aladdin”. By the 1870’s, the Hudson River Valley School continued to decline as Americans became more and more disillusioned after the hardships of the Civil War. As European art began to dominate American markets, Cropsey was forced to sell his “Aladdin” estate and move to a smaller house named “Ever Rest”. In 1893, Jasper suffered from a stroke, but was able to recover enough to continue his work. Jasper Cropsey died in 1900 in anonymity and was not to be rediscovered until the 1960’s.