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Painter Henry Bayley Snell was born in Richmond, England in 1858. He emigrated to the United States at the age of seventeen and studied at the Art Students League in New York. He married English born artist, Florence Francis in 1888.
Snell was an eminent landscape artist specializing in marine paintings and was part of the New Hope School of landscape painters. He painted many American subjects, though he became known for his St. Ives dock scenes of Cornwall, England.
In the early 1880s, Snell worked for a printing and etching house called the Photoengraving Company, where he met artist William L. Lathrop. The two became friends and spent several weeks painting and sailing on Lake Erie.
It is believed that Snell and his wife first came to Bucks County as early as 1898. They spent many afternoons at the Lathrop home at Phillips' Mill. Around 1925, the Snells settled in New Hope, Pennsylvania.
From 1899 to 1943, Snell was a beloved instructor at the Philadelphia School of Design for Women, now the Moore College of Art and Design. He often brought students to St. Ives to paint in the summer.
Snell was named Assistant Director of Fine Arts for the U.S. Commission to the Paris Exposition of 1900 and was elected to the National Academy of Design in 1906. His works are in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Pennsylvania Academy, the Allentown Art Museum, the John Herron Art Institute (now Indianapolis Museum of Art), and the Worcester Art Museum in Massachusetts.
Henry B. Snell. James A. Michener Art Museum archives.
Education and Training
Art Students League of New York, New York, New York, c. 1882-1883, 1888, 1889-1890
Colleagues and Affiliations
Henry and Florence Snell were close friends with William Lathrop and his wife Anne and their family. They would have Sunday dinners together at Phillips' Mill.
Snell was acquainted with the New Hope Group, which included Daniel Garber, Robert Spencer, Morgan Colt, Rae Sloan Bredin, and Charles Rosen, but he did not participate in their group exhibitions. As the members of this group, Snell and his wife Florence, participated at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Fransisco, 1915, where Snell was awarded both a gold and a silver medal. Snell was also friends with New Hope painters John Folinsbee and Harry Leith-Ross.
Bucks County painter Paulette Van Roekens (Meltzer) was one of his students. She later taught at the Philadelphia School of Design for Women (now Moore College of Art and Design) with her husband, painter Arthur Meltzer.
Connection to Bucks County
Henry Snell and his wife Florence, also a painter, first saw Bucks County when visiting William and Annie Lathrop in 1898. A close friend of William Lathrop, Snell shared with him a love of the sea and helped him build his boat, The Widge. Although Snell was personally acquainted with the New Hope Group artists, he was not officially a member. For several summers, the Snells visited Bucks County before finally settling in the top floor of the Solebury Bank building in New Hope in 1926.
Henry B. Snell and William Lathrop as Art Students, n.d. James A. Michener Art Museum archives. Gift of David B. Long in honor of Terry A. McNealy.
Major Group Exhibitions
Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1890, 1898, 1899, 1903, 1906-1909, 1911-1913, 1915-1918, 1920-1928, 1931-1934, 1937, 1938
Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, 1894, 1896, 1898, 1903, 1904, 1906-1908, 1911-1916, 1923-1926
Philadelphia Art Club, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1896, 1916
Paris Exposition, Paris, France, 1900
Pan-American Exposition, Buffalo, New York, 1901
National Academy of Design, New York, New York, 1903-1925, 1930, 1933, 1934
St. Louis Exposition, St. Louis, Missouri, 1904
The Carnegie International, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 1905, 1907, 1911, 1922
New York Watercolor Club, New York, New York, 1905
Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., 1907, 1908, 1910, 1914, 1916, 1919, 1921, 1923, 1926, 1932, 1935, 1937
Panama-Pacific International Exposition, San Francisco, California, 1915
Salmagundi Club, New York, New York, 1918
Philadelphia Sesquicentennial Exposition, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1926
50th Anniversary Retrospective Art Exhibition, Phillips' Mill, New Hope, Pennsylvania, 1979
Pennsylvania School of Landscape Painting: An Original American Impressionism, Allentown Art Museum, Allentown, Pennsylvania, 1984
The Pennsylvania Impressionists: Painters of the New Hope School, Michener Art Museum, Doylestown, Pennsylvania, 1990
Earth River and Light: Masterworks of Pennsylvania Impressionism, Michener Art Museum, Doylestown, Pennsylvania, 2002
Objects of Desire: Treasures from Private Collections, Michener Art Museum, New Hope, Pennsylvania, 2005-2006
"Good-humored people not only enhance company; they teach, work and live best; and Uncle Harry was one of these."
-Catherine Morris Wright
Henry B. Snell delighted his students with his merry warmth and casual instruction. Between 1899 and 1943 Snell taught portraiture at the Philadelphia School of Design for Women, often supplementing students' education by bringing them to the St. Ives artist colony in Cornwall for the summer.
Snell's students, who affectionately called him "Uncle Harry," remembered him for his idiosyncrasies as an instructor. He forbade them to use black under the assumption that it is too easy, even addictive. Encouraging them instead to work with a vibrant palette of colors, he instructed them to post a sign with the word "luminosity" above their easels. Easy-going and funny, he nevertheless brought his students down to earth during weekly workshops, at which time he offered them constructive criticism.
Finding Snell comfortable and endearing, students delighted in teasing him. Observing that fixative sparkles like champagne, his students presented him with a bubbling glass, capped with a maraschino cherry, as "a little token of [their] affection and admiration." The next day, to soothe his disappointment, the students offered him a bottle of sherry. Uncle Harry, in return, gave them priceless lessons in the practice of art and, most importantly, in the joy of creation.
Photograph of Henry B. Snell with students Felicia Waldo Howell, Paulette van Roekens, Marion O., Unidentified, Marian Wagner, and Anne Geyer. Image gift of Anne Chestnut. James A. Michener Art Museum archives.
Teaching and Professional Appointments
Faculty, Philadelphia School of Design (now Moore College of Art and Design), 1899-1943
Assistant Director of Fine Arts for the United States Commission, Paris Exposition, 1900
Summer teaching, Gloucester, Massachusetts, 1916-1920; Boothbay Harbor, Maine, 1921-1927
Gold medal, Philadelphia Art Club, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1896; prize, 1916
Prize, Nashville Exposition, Nashville, Tennessee, 1897
Prize, Paris Exposition, Paris, France, 1900
Medal, Pan-American Exposition, Buffalo, New York, 1901
St. Louis Exposition, St. Louis, Missouri, 1904
Prize, Worcester Art Museum, Worcester, Massachusetts, 1905
Prize, New York Watercolor Club, New York, New York, 1905
Gold Medal and Silver Medal, Panama-Pacific International Exposition, San Francisco, California, 1915
Fellowship, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, 1916
Prize, Salmagundi Club, New York, New York, 1918
Affiliations and Memberships
Allied Artists of America
American Watercolor Society
Society of American Artists
Salmagundi Club, 1903
National Academy of Design, 1906
President, New York Watercolor Club