Norton Bush (American, 1834-1894)
Lake Tahoe, 1880
Lake Tahoe, 1880
Crocker Art Museum, Estate of Cornelia Elizabeth Fratt, conserved with funds provided by Edith and Stephen Brandenburger
A native of Rochester, New York, Norton Bush took painting lessons from a local artist before he moved to New York City and studied with landscape painter Jasper Cropsey. He came to California via Nicaragua in 1853 and settled in San Francisco, where he painted landscape views. Ten years later, the entrepreneur William Ralston sent Bush to Panama to record scenes related to his business interests. The artist reportedly visited South America as well. Judge E. B. Crocker commissioned him to paint Miners in the Sierra in 1869 as a complement to Soda Springs, Sierra Nevada Mountains, which Crocker had recently purchased.
Bush returned to New York that year and maintained a studio there until 1872. He then came west again and settled in California, but he continued to travel. In the mid-1870s, he ventured to Panama (twice), Nicaragua, Ecuador, and Chile. In addition to the tropical landscapes he produced on those excursions, he also continued to paint scenes of the San Francisco Bay Area, the Sierra, and Lake Tahoe. In San Francisco, Bush was an active participant in local arts organizations. By 1878, his leadership in San Francisco’s art community culminated in a two-year directorship of the San Francisco Art Association. He was also a member of the Bohemian Club.
In the late 1870s, California’s art market collapsed and Bush moved to Sacramento, set up a studio, and advertised that he was accepting pupils. He served as the superintendent of the art department at the California State Fair for several years. He also oversaw the art exhibition in the California Building at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893, a taxing assignment that may have affected his health and precipitated his death the following year.