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Alexander Anderson (1775-1870)

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  • Painting, Alex (Alexander) Anderson

Alexander Anderson Biography

Alexander Anderson (1775-1870), N.A. A New York City miniaturist and physician who is generally regarded as the father of the art of wood engraving in the U.S. While there were earlier wood cut artists in America, Anderson’s wood engraving differs because it consists of fine white line engraving in miniature like that of the British wood engravor/illustrator Thomas Bewick. It was Anderson’s admiration for and replication of Bewick’s famous General History of Quadrupeds (1804) and his manner of engraving that introduced into the U.S. a new tradition of white line and burin pricked engraving made on end-cut boxwood. Anderson had previously taught himself copperplate engraving that served as a start for his innovations with wood engraving. He studied medicine and became a doctor to please his father. But with the yellow fever epidemic in New York City in 1798, in which he lost his wife, he gave up medical practice and turned to a career of wood engraving. It is estimated that he made about six thousand engravings and remained active as late as 1868 producing strong graphic designs for tracts, books, almanacs and other paper documents with multiple printed images. His handiwork can sometimes by identified with the small white line initials “AA” inconspicuously worked into a print. He was a founder of the National Academy (hence the initials N.A. after his name) and a regular exhibitor at the American Academy and the Society of Artists.

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