Tubby, Josiah
Autograph Letter Signed, Fort des Moines, Iowa, June 28, 1857 to his brother, Joseph Tubby, in New York

quarto, six pages, formerly folded, lacks mailing envelope, neatly inscribed in ink, in very good, clean and legible condition.

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Josiah Thomas Tubby (1828-1909) born in London, died in New York. Although he does not sign the letter with his surname it is written in the text. The recipient is his brother, Joseph Tubby1 (1821-1896), also an English emigrant, and an artist of plein-aire landscapes in New York. Of particular interest is the early commentary on American landscape artist, Frederic Edwin Church (1826-1900).

           Josiah Tubby writes his brother giving an account of his work and life in Iowa local politics, his home and marriage plans, including his hard work making a series of new maps of the area and his involvement in Republican Party politics, before beginning a discussion on Art:

           Dear Brother,

                 June, now just approaching its close has been with me individually the busiest month I have known since coming to Fort des Moines. The first two weeks of it which were hot in the extreme I spent in daily field work making as many regular hours as if at a regular trade. The result was a jolly red face – sore lips and thorough weariness … The last two weeks of the month I have been scarcely less so – for a set of maps to be prepared by Tuesday next has seemed to absorb every moment and at every temporary stoppage on them even for a few hours has been followed by an unmerciless lashing from those who are waiting for them …

               From Phebe Anna I received a quite lengthy account of the Exhibition of the National Academy – and I saw as well numerous criticisms upon its merits in Harpers Weekly and in the N.Y. Tribune a few copies of which find their way to our town. Although I dare say there were many excellent pictures there I judge by what I have read and heard that as a whole it was not up to former exhibitions in general excellence. Am I right in this. For the sake of its finances and for the credit of American Art I was really anxious that it might surpass all its predecessors and that Church’s Niagra too might add to its attractions. Verily Church has waked up to find himself famous. How many years has be been painting. You and I remember well when he was a lesser light – when we thought he was a pampered favorite with too little cause of the Am. Art Union – but I am willing for one to forgive that institution all its encouragement of mere daubing in the belief that it has contributed to bring out the genesis of Church – for such men as he – who has studied American landscape so fully – has acquired so little of foreign ideas as to have a natural style of his own – who is helping to make a distinctive American Art – ought to be encouraged. His Nigara will I presume place him at the head of his profession and be welcomed in Europe by all lovers of the True and the Beautiful. Phebe Anna spoke admiringly of some of Casilean’s pictures – I remember the quiet & truthful air that pervades his pieces but have always had an impression that if he ventured to execute larger works he would fail. And so you have been buying pictures of Shattuck: it seems to me that you are getting a profound admiration for this young member of the craft – and I doubt not that he well deserves the appreciation he receives. But when will Tubby do as well is a question that I am mightily interested in. I often think – brother- that though Ulster is a fine field to study nature in that it is a miserable Co. to encourage art. There seem very few people in it who are able to distinguish a genuine work of Art from a French daub – and as long as the latter are cheapest they will continue to buy them. I was a little disappointed at not hearing that you were represented in the Academy, but when I heard of the promise that next year you had resolved top send something there that should do you credit – I was satisfied. I could not have a deeper feeling of interest in your success – if it were my own and in Phebe Anna I believe you have also a hearty sympathizer with your efforts. Of late years I have been gradually inclining more and more to the belief that “Industry is the best talent” – It is very certain that Genius without it is useless – it is less certain that it has often atoned for the want of Genius. Cropsey is an instance in point. He is a man thoroughly wedded to his art – emphatically too a “one-idea” man – and hence thinks of nothing else – dreams scarcely of nothing else – and with no more than a fair share of talent he has risen by dint of his uniting industry and application to high rank Among American artists. – He will rise yet higher. …”


1. Joseph Tubby, (1821-1896) Landscape and portrait painter, born in Tottenham (England), August 25, 1821, to a Quaker family who emigrated to America and settled in Kingston, New York in 1832. He studied art briefly with a portrait painter named Black and did decorative painting in Kingston, as well as landscapes and a few portraits. He exhibited at the National Academy between 1851 and 1860 and was an intimate friend of Jervis McEntee. He spent the last seven years of his life in Brooklyn and New Jersey, dying in Montclair on August 6, 1896. Senate House Museum, “Exhibition of Paintings by Joseph Tubby”; Cowdrey, NAD.   

Groce-Wallace, Dictionary of Artists in America, 1564-1860, p. 638.