William McIlvaine

(1813 - 1867)

The hallmark of artist William McIlvaine’s work is his delicate handling of watercolors, which were his primary medium. McIlvaine received a degree from the University of Pennsylvania and followed that period with studies in Europe. After returning to America, he dedicated himself to creating a professional career as an artist. When gold was discovered in California, McIlvaine headed west, where he traveled for five months making a record of life in the gold camps through a series of richly detailed watercolor paintings. He returned to Pennsylvania by way of Mexico, where he also plied his brushes recording daily life and local landscapes as he traveled. He illustrated a volume of his journeys, Sketches of Scenery and Personal Adventure in California and Mexico, which was published in 1850. When Civil War broke out, McIlvaine joined the 5th New York Infantry and somehow carved out time to create a visual history of Union Army camp life. His work is in the collection of the New York Historical Society and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.