John Quidor

Biography, Art, and Representation of Nationalism

Personal Background


  • John Quidor was born on January 26, 1801 in Tappan, New Jersey.
  • At age nine he moved with his family to New York City, where he began painting tavern signs and the like under the instruction of portraitist John Wesley Jarvis.
  • This lasted from 1818 to 1822 when he sued Jarvis for noncompliance with the terms of his apprenticeship.


  • In 1827, he began his career as a portraitist, specializing in the illustration of scenes from novels by James Fennimore Cooper and Washington Irving.
  • From 1828 to around 1830, Quidor enjoyed success with exhibitions at the National Academy of Design and the Boston Athenaeum. He also took on two students, Charles Loring Elliott and Thomas Bangs Thorpe.
  • During the late 1840's, Quidor moved West, only to return to New York in 1851 to resume painting.


  • In 1868, Quidor moved in with his daughter in New Jersey
  • He died there in 1881

Examples of Artwork

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The Money Diggers

This piece was created in 1832 for Washington Irving's novel, The Adventure of the Black Fisherman. It portrays a scene full of ethnic stereotypes, as it features a "miserly Dutchman", a "sinister German sorcerer", and a "superstitious black fisherman" (Brooklyn Museum). The scene is based in colonial New York, and portrays the trio's desperate search for gold in a Dutch cemetery.
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The Headless Horseman Pursuing Ichabod Crane

This piece was created in 1858 and inspired by Washington Irving's popular American tale The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. The painting captures the climax of the story, which is the chase that occurs between Ichabod Crane, and the so-called Headless Horseman. The scene, like that of The Money Diggers, is dark and portrays what can be easily described as a frightening scene. It is nighttime, but the scene is faintly illuminated so that the viewer can see the look of terror on Ichabod's face, which sets the tone for the entire piece.
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Painted in 1823, this image portrays a girl enjoying idealistic outdoor scenery. Unlike many of his works, Quidor did not paint Dorothea for a book. This painting in particular portrays the Romantic period in which Quidor created his art, and conveys a nationalistic sense through the use of a natural background that was so popular during that era.


Illustation of Nationalism

John Quidor illustrated the growing feeling of nationalism in his pieces by only depicting American landscapes and scenes from American literature. His short move to the West during his life also affected the nationalistic vibe that is given off by his pieces. Like many artists during the time period, John Quidor was especially focused on the portrayal of the American landscape, which can be best shown through Dorothea. In addition to his portrayal of American as a spacious land of idealistic beauty and harmony, Quidor also abstained from using the traditional, British painting style and using British works as references. Through this, Quidor established his paintings as uniquely American, and therefore furthered the nationalistic spirit of his artwork.

Contribution to the Art World

Although Quidor never experienced a great deal of success during his time, today his art is appreciated as a significant American literary painter. Quidor's work first became widely appreciated after John I. H. Baur exhibited his work at the Brooklyn Museum in 1942. Since then, his paintings are considered to be an important part of the Romantic period and a significant part of the Nationalism movement during that time.

Works Cited

"National Gallery of Art." Artist Info. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Nov. 2015

"The Money Diggers." Brooklyn Museum: American Art. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Nov. 2015

"Art Now and Then." John Quidor. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Nov. 2015

"Quidor, John; 1801-81." AVHS-APUSH. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Nov. 2015

On my honor, I have been academically honest.