James Augustus Suydam began his career as a businessman but turned to painting, studying under Minor C. Kellogg. At the age of thirty he was elected to the Century Association. One of the “regulars” who gathered to paint at North Conway, New Hampshire, he exhibited Conway Meadows at the Boston Athenaeum. He opened his studio at the 10th Street Studio Building, New York City, in 1858. The following year he was elected an honorary professional member in the National Academy of Design, which granted him full membership in 1861. He died suddenly in North Conway at the age of 46.
James Suydam was described by his friend, Sanford Robinson Gifford, as a “thoroughly educated and accomplished man.” In addition to his work as an artist, which he began only after dabbling with the law and architecture, he was widely read and well-versed in history, philosophy, and the sciences. His work as a landscape painter reflects this breadth of knowledge and reveals Suydam as a deeply spiritual individual. Using his familiarity with science, Suydam reduced nature to calm, clean, planar forms, and then distorted proportional relations so that God’s creations loomed superior over the work of man.
The National Academy has most of his works such as Paradise Rocks (1865). This painting is referenced in John Wilmerding’s American Views (chapter 6, page 96).