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William Graham

(1832-1911)
Born: California

William Graham was an American landscape painter who spent most of his life and artistic career abroad. He was born in California in 1832. Little is known about Graham’s early life; however, it is known that in 1849 he sought fortune in California, moving to San Francisco.[1]

Graham initially learned to make watches and jewelry before developing an interest in art. He traveled abroad to study art in Paris and London and spent some time painting in Egypt as well. It wasn’t until his studies towards the middle of his life that he began to take his painting seriously.[2] Graham settled down in Italy for many years and painted landscapes and architecture, primarily of Rome and Venice.[3] Graham also spent time living in Capri, near his friends and fellow artists Elihu Vedder and Charles Caryl Coleman. Graham was the first artist to incorporate the cities’ prominent grey skies, a technique that other Italian landscape painters later began to adapt.[4]

 Although Graham was often described as one with many quirks and idiosyncrasies, those who spent time with him developed an appreciation and understanding for Graham’s life as well as his work.[5] One of those people, his friend Charles Caryl Coleman, spoke highly of his painting, San Marco:

“The San Marco picture is Graham’s very finest work, and gives…sentiment of the place as, in my opinion (and that of others), no other picture ever painted of the subject has done-no matter who the painter.”[6]

Despite settling abroad, many of Graham’s painting were exhibited throughout the United States over the course of his career. His paintings Venetian Lagoon, Venetian Sunset and Winter Campagna were featured in the National Academy in the winter of 1873. His works were also exhibited at the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia and the 1878 Mechanics’ Fair in Boston.[7]

Graham moved back to Buffalo for the last year of his life. He worked as an artist for the Buffalo Commercial Advertiser and also exhibited shortly with the Buffalo Society of Artists.[8] Graham died in 1911. His works have been included in multiple catalogs, including the Buffalo Fine Arts Academy catalog (1913) and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts catalog of paintings (1921).[9] His works are owned by the Boston and Philadelphia museums, collectors in the United States and Europe, and the Albright Knox Art Gallery.[10]



[1] Lars Gustaf Sellstedt, “Buffalo: The Matthews-Northrup Works”, Art in Buffalo, 1910.

[2] “William Graham”, Burchfield Penney Artist File, Archived transcription, 1982.

[3] “William Graham”, Burchfield Penney Artist File, Archived transcription, 1982.

[4] “William Graham”, Burchfield Penney Artist File, Archived transcription, 1982.

[5] “William Graham”, Burchfield Penney Artist File, Archived transcription, 1982.

[6] “William Graham”, Burchfield Penney Artist File, Archived transcription, 1982.

[7] “William Graham”, Burchfield Penney Artist File, Unknown archived publication.

[8] “William Graham”, Burchfield Penney Artist File, Unknown archived publication.

[9] “William Graham”, Burchfield Penney Artist File, Unknown archived publication.

[10] “William Graham”, Burchfield Penney Artist File, Archived transcription, 1982.