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Thomas Proudley Otter trained at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. He sketched, painted, and photographed the county's scenery in a realistic and detailed style. In 1864, Otter's Winter Landscape was among a collection of paintings presented by Abraham Lincoln to the actress, Charlotte Cushman, to commemorate her efforts during the Civil War. After the Civil War, Otter moved to New Britain and then settled in Doylestown, where he taught art at the Linden Female Seminary. His work was used for illustrations in W.W. H. Davis' History of Bucks County. Otter became one of the first artists to record the local scene in depth. Along with Henry Mercer, he helped found the Bucks County Historical Society.
Otter's work as a painter remained relatively obscure, until a renewed interest in his work in the late 1970s revealed the artistry of an otherwise quiet, unassuming man. In 1976, his best known painting, On the Road, went on tour in the Smithsonian Institute's exhibit entitled America as Art. In 1978, his work received a retrospective at the Mercer Museum.
Education and Training
Engraving apprenticeship with Daniel Scattergood, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1849
Studied with James Hamilton, Paul Weber, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, c. 1859
Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, c. 1860
Teachers and Influences
James Hamilton, Philadelphia marine painter
Paul Weber, German/American landscape painter
French Landscape School
Connection to Bucks County
Thomas Proudley Otter spent almost half of his life in Bucks County.
He first lived in New Britain and then in Doylestown from 1867 to 1890. He taught art at the Linden Female Seminary and staged the art exhibit at the Doylestown Fair, then called the Agricultural and Mechanics Institute. He was among ten men who, along with Henry Mercer, founded the Bucks County Historical Society. His illustrations in W.W.H. Davis' History of Bucks County recorded landmark buildings that might otherwise have been forgotten. He was a local engraver, photographer, and botanist said to have discovered two new plant species in the county.
Colleagues and Affiliations
Marion Otter, daughter
Major Solo Exhibitions
Thomas P. Otter: Retrospective, Mercer Museum of the Bucks County Historical Society, Doylestown, Pennsylvania, 1978
Major Group Exhibitions
Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1855-1867
Boston Athenaeum, Boston, Massachusetts, 1859-1860
National Academy of Design, New York, New York, 1860
Bucks County Bicentennial Exhibition, 1882
Smithsonian Institution, America as Art, Washington, D.C., 1976
An Evolving Legacy: Twenty Years of Collecting at the James A. Michener Art Museum, Michener Art Museum, Doylestown, Pennsylvania, 2009-2010
Painted curtain for the Doylestown Lenape Building, c. 1881
Teaching and Professional Appointments
Art instructor, Linden Female Seminary, Doylestown, Pennsylvania
Affiliations and Memberships
Chairman, Fine Arts Division, The Agricultural and Mechanics Institute (The Doylestown Fair), Doylestown, Pennsylvania
Founding member, Bucks County Historical Society
The Palisades at Nockmixon
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