Attributed to John La Farge [1835-1910] : The sea serpent [unpublished woodblock from the Third volume of the Mangwa, ca.1870], ca.1870.


Attributed to John La Farge [1835-1910]
American historic realist painter, muralist, and stained glass artist
The sea serpent, ca.1870s [from the Third volume of the Mangwa by John La Farge, ca.1870]
Original hand-carved wood block (to make a print for a book)
4 x 3-1/2 inches [unframed]

2023 The sea serpent [unpublished woodblock from the Third volume of the Mangwa by John La Farge], ca.1870s

Original untouched condition.

John La Farge who was interested in Japanese prints and design became obsessed with Hokusai’s twenty-eight volume print set published beginning 1814 called Mangwa (sometimes referred to as Manga).  The volume of prints by the Japanese master is believed to be the origins of Manga comic books and cartoons in modern Japan as well as referred to the “book of everything” like the French Diderot’s encyclopedia.  John La Farge created his own version of the prints for publication in the 1860s and continued for years producing it.  The hand-carved wood block on offer is one of the designs from Volume 3 of Mangwa, the sea serpent.

Wood block prints from Japan were printed either with watercolor or soy based water soluble oil paint (which looks like watercolor) and likely La Farge would have followed suit.

2023 ( David Smernoff, New Haven, CT & New York, NY ) ;
after 1916 Estate of Helena de Kay Gilder (1848-1916) and Richard Watson Gilder (1844-1909), New York, NY ;
after ca.1870s Private collection of Helena de Kay Gilder (1848-1916) and Richard Watson Gilder (1844-1909), New York, NY ;
ca.1870s John La Farge [1835-1910], the artist .

– [none known] ;

– The Art Bulletin Volume 67 Number 3 John La Farge’s Discovery of Japanese Art: A New Perspective on the Origins of Japonisme by Henry Adams September 1985 pages 449-485 (37 pages) illustrated in b&w page 467.

John La Farge (1835-1910) was an American painter, muralist, and stained glass artist. He was born in New York City to wealthy French parents. La Farge studied law but was more interested in art. He took painting lessons from Thomas Couture in Paris in 1856. Back in New York, La Farge became part of the artist community in Greenwich Village. He started out as an illustrator, doing drawings for books and magazines.

In the 1870s, La Farge began creating murals for churches and other public buildings along the East Coast. His murals can be seen in places like Trinity Church in Boston, St. Paul’s Chapel at Columbia University, and the Minnesota State Capitol.

La Farge is best known for his innovations in stained glass. Around 1875 he started experimenting with opalescent glass, which helped make stained glass more popular in America. Some of La Farge’s famous stained glass windows are found in Biltmore Estate, Judson Memorial Church in NYC, and Southwark Cathedral in London.

La Farge traveled extensively, including trips to Japan and the South Pacific. These travels inspired his painting. He was involved in arts organizations, serving as president of the National Society of Mural Painters. La Farge died in 1910 in Rhode Island.