Saturday, November 28, 2015

The Si owns DC...........

Although ultimately becoming renowned as one of the United States’ preeminent anthropologists, William Henry Holmes first sought to pursue a career as an artist. Born in 1846 near Cadiz, Ohio, Holmes was drawn to art and was primarily self taught. However, finding little support for his artistic endeavors despite multiple attempts to become a student of local respected artists, by 1871 he decided to pursue a career in education. However a tip from a local in Cadiz sent him on a detour to the Washington, D.C. studio of the artist Theodor Kaufmann who accepted him as a pupil. As luck would have it, the eldest daughter of the Smithsonian’s first secretary, Joseph Henry was also in an oil-painting class taught by Kaufmann and she suggested finding items to sketch in the collections held in the Smithsonian Castle. While sketching two birds in a display at the Castle, Holmes caught the attention of a resident ornithologist who was impressed by his work. The researcher took Holmes to the research rooms in the Castle where he met many other Smithsonian scholars. Soon the budding artist was illustrating for reports written by Fielding Bradford Meek for the U.S. Geological and Geographical Survey of the Territories. Meek, a paleontologist and resident of the Smithsonian, mentored Holmes in both science and illustration.

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