Sunday, November 18, 2018

Eliza Barchus: Northwest American Landscape Painter

Eliza R. Barchus
It's been a while since my last post-I retired from teaching and moved to Portland, Oregon for a year of adventure and exploration so, meet Eliza Barchus, a native Oregonian and landscape painter. Born in Salt Lake City, Utah, December 4, 1857, Barchus relocated to Oregon with her second husband, John, in 1880. While she was raising a family, she began to study art with William Parrott, joined the Mutual Art Association, and began to exhibit at early industrial fairs. Barchus sold her first painting in 1885 and drew national attention in 1890 when one of her large paintings of Mount Hood, a 40 x 60 inch canvas, was displayed at the National Academy of Design in New York City. She created a number of paintings of the mountain such as the one below.
Eliza R. Barchus
Mt. Hood
Oil on Art Board   
4 1/2 x 6 1/2 inches
Widowed in 1899, Barchus became the sole support of her family. In addition to managing a thriving art studio, she sold and traded many artworks in order to make ends meet. In 1905 she won a gold medal at the Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition for her paintings and is also credited with the introduction of color postcards in the United States made from six of her landscapes at the exposition.

This lithograph was offered for sale at 50 cents during the 1905 Lewis and Clark Exposition. The lithographs of Mt. Hood at Sunset and Mt. Rainier at Noonday (large size) were a little more – 75 cents. Unsold inventory after the Fair generated income for the family for years afterwards.

This sign was created on sheet metal, painted black with white lettering. It measures approximately 20″ by 14.” A December 22, 1901 mention in the Oregonian newspaper announced that: Mrs. E. R. Barchus, artist, painter of mountain scenery, offers her beautiful picture of Mount Hood for the holidays. Small sizes. Low prices. Room 1 Multnomah block.
The reference to “Room 1” on both the sign and in the article link the sign to her time in that studio.

Eliza Barchus was quite the innovative artist and businesswoman. She produced thousands of artworks, often employing an assembly-line system, painting several canvases at once. She painted almost exclusively in oil with just a few watercolor sketches that were most likely done as preliminary pieces for the larger works. Barchus advertised in catalogs and had a thriving business through the mail. For those familiar with local history, Eliza Barchus sold paintings at the B.B. Rich Cigar and Concession at the Portland Hotel where Portland's "Living Room" now exists: Pioneer Square.

Eliza R. Barchus
Wilson River (?) Oregon
Oil on Art Board   
4 1/2 x 6 1/2 inches
Eliza Barchus was an artist of considerable talent and a business woman quite ahead of her time. Her painting career ended in 1935 due to arthritis and failing eyesight, but she lived until she was 102 years old. She is one of Oregon's most popular pioneer artists and, several years after her death, Barchus was named "The Oregon Artist" by the Oregon Legislative Assembly. Eleanor Roosevelt honored Eliza Barchus' 100th birthday in her syndicated column, "My Day."

Eliza R. Barchus
Multnoma Falls
Oil on canvas
12.25 x 22 inches

The Oregon Encyclopedia, Ginny Allen,, retrieved November 18, 2018
Elizabeth R. Barchus, Oregon Artist, Research Site,

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