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Norton Bush (1834-1894)

Known primarily for his tropical views of South and Central America, Norton Bush was also one of the West Coast's earliest landscape painters, especially of Sierra Nevada mountain scenes. He arrived in 1853 and established a studio in San Francisco, and remained there excepting for a few years in Sacramento and several trips to Latin America.

Norton Bush tropical landscapes were highly exotic subject in those days and first resulted from his trip around Cape Horn, sailing from New York to California. His South American subjects brought him patronage from wealthy Californians William Ralston and Henry Meiggs, and their financial support for projects promoting their businesses allowed him to make additional trips to South America in 1868 and 1875.

Norton Bush was born in Rochester, New York and took his first art instruction from James Harris, a local artist. He also studied with Jasper Cropsey in New York City and associated with Frederic Church, both Hudson River School painters whose style continued to influence Norton Bush. Many of his paintings were done with the goal of inspiring the viewer with the overwhelming aspects of nature and the diminished relative position of human beings.

In 1853, when Norton Bush first traveled to California, he traveled through the Isthmus of Panama and reportedly through the jungles of Nicaragua. William Ralston was a San Francisco banker and paid Norton Bush to paint scenes related to Ralston's business interests in Central America. For Henry Meiggs, Bush did paintings depicting a railroad whose building he had overseen in the Andes Mountains.

From 1878 to 1880, Norton Bush was the Director of the San Francisco Art Association. Norton Bush also became art director of the California section of the 1893 Chicago World's Fair. However, this effort was overly taxing on his health, and he had a fatal heart attack in Oakland on April 24, 1894. Source: askart.com

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