Alfred Thompson Bricher: Renowned Painter of Maine Coastal Scenes

Alfred Thompson Bricher
Alfred Thompson Bricher (1837-1908)

by William A. Gage, Department Head

Alfred Thompson Bricher was born in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. During the summer of 1858 at the age of 21 he took a sketching trip to Mount Desert, Maine. There, he met and was influenced by William S. Haseltine (1835-1900) and Charles Temple Dix (1838-1873). By the 1860s he had established himself in Boston where he had his studio in the same building as Martin Johnson Heade (1819-1904). It was in 1866 that Bricher arranged to have some of his paintings made into Chromolithographs by the Boston firm of L. Prang & Company. This allowed his images to be seen by a much larger group of potential clients and furthered his popularity.

He married in 1868 and moved to New York City. He expanded his painting locations to include the New York and New Jersey coasts. He was accomplished in both watercolor and oil and is considered one of America’s best known landscape and marine painters of the nineteenth century. In 1870 he was elected an Associate member of the National Academy of Design and in 1873 he was elected into the American Water Color Society. Later in his life he concentrated on the Maine coast and some of his best works are from this period.

Outstanding Example of a Bricher Watercolor, Sold at Julia’s in 2003 for $14,950
Outstanding Example of a Bricher
Watercolor, Sold at Julia’s in 2003 for $14,950

The picturesque Maine coast was a favorite of A.T. Bricher as he is best known. Starting in 1864 he painted thousands of coastal views from New Jersey to Eastern most Maine. His wide canvases created a broad almost panoramic view incorporating the foreground of a beach and coastal cliffs or bluffs leading to an expanse of water dotted with ships of all kinds. This scene was always accompanied by a colorful sky accented by white and gray clouds with patches of blue. In most of his works are seen a breaking or multiple breaking waves with great detail given the translucency at their crest.

Today, his work can be found in almost all important American Museums and private collections. In the early 1900s he also exhibited at the Gill’s Art Gallery in Springfield, Massachusetts. It is one of these paintings exhibited in 1903 at this very gallery that we are pleased to have included in our  upcoming August auction. Illustrated in Gill’s catalog as selection #15 bearing the title “Near York Beach, Maine.” It is a large work (18” x 39”) and exhibits details of his finest work. This was purchased from Gill’s gallery by the family that have consigned it and most importantly it is the first time ever at public auction carrying no reserve and an estimate of $40,000–60,000.