Nicolay Tysland Leganger (1834 – 1905)


N.T. Leganger was born in Bergen, Norway in 1834 as Nicklar Teshlant Leganger. But in America he was known as Nicolas or Nicholas. His first name in art publications is often listed as Nicolay or Nickolay but primary research has not yet confirmed those spellings in any official U.S. documents except for the 1865 San Francisco city directory where his first name is listed as Nicolay. It is assumed Tsyland is an Americanization of Teshlant. But he most often is listed as just N.T. Leganger. Based on his obituary he  was involved in the Gold Rush and was active in San Francisco before the Civil War painting portraits and miniatures on ivory. After the Civil War he spent several years in Europe and then was active in New York City in the 1870’s and later in Boston. He married Mattie Thompson in 1880 in Manhattan. He exhibited at the Brooklyn Art Association between 1871 and 1882 and at the Boston Art Club in 1873. His work was represented at an important sale of paintings at Noyes and Blakeslee in Boston, December 1880. He also exhibited at the National Academy of Design in 1877 with an address of 1155 Broadway  and then from 1878 to 1882 with an address of 52 East 23rd St. and then in 1891 with an address of Newton Center MA.  He was listed as a resident of Acton MA in 1896 and was living at 5 Jenison St.  in Newton, MA in 1904. He died March 30, 1905 and is buried in the cemetery at 791 Walnut Street Newton Center, MA.

He is referenced in a book by F. T. Robinson titled Living New England Artists (Boston, 1888).

White Mountain paintings of Tamworth, NH include: On the Meadows, Tamworth (1891), Afternoon at Tamworth (1894), and Summer Afternoon, South Tamworth (1896). He is also known to have done paintings of Mount Chocorua, Newfound Lake, and the summit of Mount Washington. His New Hampshire paintings are dated as early as 1884.

It is believed by the authors that, early in his career while in California, N. T. Leganger went under the pseudonym of N.T. Johnson. N.T. Johnson is listed in Smithsonian records as having exhibited in several places in San Francisco in 1864 and 1865 (California Art Union and San Francisco Mechanics’ Institute). He exhibited portraits and still lives. Leganger’s obituary states that Leganger did portraits while in San Francisco. After the 1860’s, N.T. Johnson exhibition records seem to disappear, except for a painting exhibited in New York City (Landscape watercolor at American Society of Painters in Water Colors, New York, New York, 1867-1868). After the 1860’s, N.T. Leganger paintings and records start to appear on the East Coast in the 1870’s. This is consistent with his obituary that states he left California after the Civil War and traveled in Europe before returning to the United States. Leganger’s first name was Nicolay. The San Francisco city directory of 1865 listed a Nicolay T. Johnson Artist at 429 Montgomery St. with his dwelling listed as Cosmopolitan Hotel (page 246). Leganger’s calligraphy of his initials “N.T.” are quite distinctive. A signed  N.T. Johnson floral painting from 1865 inscribed “S.Fr.” [San Francisco] is known which has the same distinctive lettering style of Leganger. There are also two almost identical coastal scenes known — one signed N.T. Leganger and the other N.T. Johnson.  N.T. Johnson also exhibited a painting of Norway in California in 1865 — consistent with Leganger’s birth country.  Finally, there is a New Hampshire painting from the summit of Mt. Washington that is currently signed N.T. Leganger. But upon cleaning, a second signature, N.T. Johnson, was said to be discovered. A similarly described painting is listed as having been exhibited at the National Academy of Design in 1871 under the name N.T. Johnson.

N.T. Leganger Obituary from Newton Graphic April 5, 1905

Death of an Artist.

N.T. Leganger, who died Friday at his home in Newtonville at the age of 71 after a short illness, was well known as a portrait and landscape artist. He was born in Bergen, Norway, in 1834, and came to the United States a few years before the civil war. He had studied art before he came to this country and at once began to paint portraits in San Francisco, in which city he resided for a number of years. He also painted miniatures on ivory.

Like all other young men of the Golden Gate, he had the mining fever, which led him to interest himself in “claims” which never proved profitable.

After the war, he visited London and Paris and traveled for several years on the continent. He returned to New York and later came to Boston, where he made his home of late years. He was very successful as a portrait painter and received commissions from some of the wealthy people of Boston and vicinity. His most successful picture, “The Three Heads” is owned by the family of the late Mr. Sanborn of the firm of Chase & Sanborn.

In his landscape work, Mr. Leganger always succeeded in getting very beautiful atmospheric effects. He made his sky a fine part of the picture.

A wife and son survive him.

His paintings have been accepted by the most exacting and critical body in the country, the New York Academy of Art, and his work, always commanded high prices, with patrons among the wealthy families of New England.

The funeral was held from his late residence, Saturday afternoon, at 2:30 Rev. Dr. H. J. Patrick officiating. At the request of Mrs. Leganger, an address was delivered by his neighbor and friend, Mr. L. L. Hamilton, which we will give in full next week. The burial was in Newton Cemetery.

An Artist’s Eulogy. The following eulogy was delivered by Mr. L. L. Hamilton at the funeral of the late N. T. Leganger.

The hand and brain of genius has been stilled. That highest gift which mankind possesses, has passed away in this man who has left us. He was an artist as sensitive in his communion with Nature as the delicate flowers which his brush could produce upon canvas, and as broad in his wide vision of Nature as the mountains and sky on which lingered under his art the most glorious of colors and magnificence in detail.

His works in landscape copies from Nature, were inspired with a genius as grand as that of any artist who has preceded him. I have had the pleasure of his acquaintance for many years, and have often followed his work in art, and have been privileged to read the heart of this man. His whole soul was bound up in his art, and he could only work when inspired with the forms of wondrous beauty and magnificence which lay slumbering until aroused in his brain and soul. Those visions of transcendent color, of blending in detail and harmony which only Nature in her exquisite groupings of form and color can create, were reproduced by this hand and brain with a skill and entrancing beauty, that should make us all stand in awe and reverence before these sacred remains. His heart belonged to Nature; his soul was given to Art, that most elevating of all the forces which has uplifted man from the ages of barbarism to that of our highest civilization.

Wherever Art flourishes, mankind reaches the highest development. These men who work for mankind as artists are engaged in as holy and beneficial work for mankind as that of the minister or priest, for their calling and work leaves an impression on the soul which lasts through generations, and cultivates communities and Nations wherever their creations come under the vision of man. Every Nation has appreciated this fact, and the works of the great Masters in Art are preserved with scrupulous care in art museums to elevate by their influence the standards of culture.

This man Leganger’s work as that of a landscape artist, was, and is, a work which will live after him; and many will strive to add to the number of their paintings from the hands of this wonderful artist, which NOW adorn the walls of many of our finest residences and collections of art in the homes of culture and refinement of New England

His work will be sought, and alas! it will be found that they are limited in number, because his soul was not attuned constantly to the inspiration. When he was inspired, he painted and copied from Nature her beauteous visions in which his soul was enraptured one, by one; and thus, he has left his work with Art attuned nearer to her ideal, the perfect reproduction of Nature.


Independent Research by the Authors and Benjamin Clark
New Hampshire Scenery