William Henry Holmes


William Henry Holmes Biography





Born near Cadiz, Ohio, William Henry Holmes was a survey-field artist, primarily self taught, who earned a reputation as a skilled panoramic landscape painter of the Grand Canyon. He also created delicate watercolors which showcased his attention to detailed.

Holmes was educated in the public schools of Georgetown, Ohio, and was a teacher there until 1872. He then moved to Washington D.C. where he studied art with Theodore Kaufmann and was employed sketching specimens for the Smithsonian Institution.

In 1872, succeeding Thomas Moran, he became field artist for the United States Geological Survey’s Hayden Expedition of the territory which would become Yellowstone Park. The expedition’s leader was Ferdinand Hayden, from whom Holmes learned a great deal concerning geology. Holmes accompanied Hayden on an 1874 Colorado survey, and in 1875 led the survey party in Arizona and New Mexico. By 1876, he was a full-fledged geologist.

In 1879, Holmes went to Europe, and the next year accompanied Clarence Dutton on a Grand Canyon geological exploration, doing nine "double page" panoramas that led viewers breathlessly to the Canyon edge. It was said that these views were the highest point ever reached in topographical illustration.

In 1884 to 1886, Holmes did a study of Pueblo Indians in Mexico, and from that time, held positions as Head Curator of Chicago's Field Museum and Chief of the Bureau of American Ethnology from 1902 to 1920, when he became director of the National Gallery of Art.

Holmes was a member of the Washington Watercolor Club and the Society of Washington Artists and has a watercolor in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery in Washington D.C.