“And so in his mountain home in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, where he spends his summers in an almost primeval environment, he is watching the majesty of the storm, the splendor of the sunset, the gray swirl of fog clouds, and the flowing change of season upon season.” (Elliott Daingerfield, Sketch of his Life)
John Elliott Parker Daingerfield is considered one of the most prominent artists with North Carolina roots. He was raised in Fayetteville, North Carolina where his father was commander of a Confederate arsenal. Daingerfield knew early on that he wanted to be an artist and learned some basics of drawing and painting from a sign painter in Fayetteville. He also assisted a commercial photographer and a china painter. In 1880, he decided to pursue further instruction in New York City and enrolled at the National Academy of Design. His painting, The Monk Smelling a Bottle of Wine, was exhibited at the Academy before the end of his first year there.
In New York, Daingerfield worked as a studio boy and apprentice under William Satterle, who was confident in Daingerfield’s skill and eventually asked him to become the instructor of his still life class. While working for Satterle, Daingerfield started taking classes at the Art Students League where he learned more about artistic theories and techniques. Daingerfield’s most influential mentor was George Inness, whom he met in 1884 when he moved into a space at Holbein Studios on Fifty-fifth street. The two often watched each other work and spent time in each other’s studios. Inness showed Daingerfield how to get the atmospheric effects of light by mixing layers of paint with thin layers of varnish. This technique created a wonderful sense of mood and tone.
Daingerfield set up a studio in Blowing Rock, North Carolina in 1886. Although originally looking for a place to recover from an illness, he found a source of inspiration for his art in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Daingerfield spent the rest of his life travelling between his studios in Blowing Rock and New York City. He taught out of his studio in North Carolina in the summers and at the Philadelphia School of Design and the Art Students League in the winters.
In 1910, Daingerfield was one of five artists selected to travel to the Grand Canyon on a trip commissioned by the Santa Fe Railroad. They wanted to increase tourism by having artists paint the canyon. His paintings of this natural wonder are some of his most famous works and he returned to paint the canyon several times.
Daingerfield felt that there was a very strong link between nature and spirituality. Many of his paintings have a mystical quality about them. Daingerfield said that “spiritual vision is a message imparted to a man of genius who, if he has technical ability, may pass it on to the observer.” And also that “Art is the principle flowing out of God through certain men and women by which they perceive and understand the beautiful. The office of the Artist is to express the beautiful.” He always strove to achieve this in his paintings – many times by trying to capture the mood and feeling of a place instead of depicting a specific locale. At times, Daingerfield would even write poetry to accompany his paintings.
Daingerfield died in 1932 in New York. His work is represented in numerous museums including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Smithsonian American Art Museum, and National Academy of Design Museum.