Brandywine River Museum

Chadds Ford, PA

(610) 388-2700


Inventing the American Past: The Art of F.O.C. Darley

September 11 - November 21, 1999


For more than 40 years, Felix Octavius Carr Darley (1822-1888) dominated American book and magazine publishing, becoming one of the best-known illustrators of his time. By collaborating closely with writers such as Washington Irving, Darley helped popularize such American icons as the Pilgrim, the Pioneer, the Minuteman and the Yankee Peddler.

Beginning September 11, 1999 Inventing the American Past: The Art of F.O.C. Darley celebrates Darley's accomplishments. Organized by the New York Public Library and Brandywine River Museum, the exhibition is the first retrospective of Darley in over 20 years. Drawing from its extensive collection of works by the artist, the New York Public Library presents 58 prints and drawings chronicling Darley's career. To complement this traveling exhibition, the Brandywine River Museum has added 50 original paintings and drawings from its collection and other sources. (left: Felix Octavius Carr Darley (1822-1888), Touchstone and Audrey, 1886)

Darley's career began modestly when he provided illustrations for Philadelphia magazines and newspapers. His first independent projects, published in 1843, were a series of outline drawings depicting the "noble savage" in Sketches in Indian Life, and pen drawings of Philadelphia street life for In Town and About. They brought him quick recognition. Moving to New York in 1848, Darley began a long association with Washington Irving and won fame with his memorable illustrations for Rip Van Winkle, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Tales of a Traveler and the monumental five-volume Life of George Washington.

So great was the demand for Darley's work that new books were promoted as "illustrated by Darley." Because his work outshone his contemporaries, he enjoyed independent commissions for drawings, paintings and large-scale designs for engravings and lithographs. His fame and close ties with artists, authors and publishers allowed him to leave New York and settle in the quiet village of Claymont, Delaware in 1859.

One of the crowning points of Darley's career was his illustrations for the complete works of James Fenimore Cooper. The project involved designs for 64 steel engravings and 120 wood engravings. The success of this undertaking led to publication of The Cooper Vignettes which showcased the artist's works.

Read more about the Brandywine River Museum in the Resource Library


rev. 10/18/10

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