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AMUM staff pick of the week: Study of harpist for the painting “Long, Long Ago” by Samuel H. Crone (1858-1913)


Samuel H. Crone (1858-1913)

Study of harpist for the painting “Long, Long Ago”

ca. 1900

red chalk on cream paper

22 9/16 x 15 1/8

Gift of William S. Huff

This large and elegant drawing represents the exquisite skill of the artist Sam Crone, who was raised in Memphis during the mid-19th century. Memphis at this time was a rough river town with a burgeoning economy.  Sam’s father and mother, both German immigrants, settled in the city when he was a toddler.  His father started a tanning business that made saddles, but more significantly he made upholstery for train carriages when railroads were the dotcom industry of the moment.  The Crones prospered and made a good life for their children, whose descendants still live in Memphis.

Sam, however, was lost to later generations.  At the age of 19, he sailed to Europe to study art at the Munich Academy and returned to the United States only in 1913, where he died of pneumonia a few days after arriving in Pittsburgh, his wife Sarah’s home city.  Many years later, William Huff, Sarah’s nephew, inherited the artist’s drawings.  The connection to Memphis was forgotten by then, but William was intent on unearthing Sam’s history.  Years of William’s savvy and scrupulous research reunited the families of Sam and Sarah.

This drawing was exhibited at AMUM in 1997 in “A Return to Memphis:  The Art of Samuel Hester Crone (1858-1913).”  William also located the painting for which it is a study, “Long, Long Ago,” in the collection of a previously unknown distant cousin, Richard Ahlers.  Both the drawing and the painting are now in AMUM’s collection, thanks to William’s untiring pursuit of Samuel Crone’s history and his art.

Published inArt MuseumUniversity of Memphis

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