Updated October 05, 2014
Paul E. Harney was a noted portrait painter and renowned artist who was recognized by the St. Louis Art League, occupied the chair in the St. Louis School of Fine Arts (later became Washington University School of Fine Arts), a member of the Art Commission of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, a member of the Artists’ Guild and also a member of The Society of Western Artists. In his later life, Paul E. Harney had a studio and apartment at the Hotel Jefferson where he entertained his friends and sketched and painted his work. His most common artistic themes were chickens, fireplace scenes and portraits of monks. He depicted “every phase of chicken life, giving whole weeks of his time to the barnyard” (St. Louis Globe Dem. 10/9/15).
Harney’s life was filled with grief and manifest with tragedy. His wife Emma Stewart Harney, two grown sons, Paul and Howard, and a married daughter all died within the same year, five years before Paul Harney’s own death. Because his life was beset by many setbacks and adversity, he sold many of his paintings at very low prices because he was often pressed for money. He was recognized by his friends as being “good-natured, goodhearted and generally loved.”
Harney, born October 21, 1850 in New Orleans to Paul and Susan Ferris Harney, was brought to St. Louis where he received his grade school education. He received his education in art at the National Academy in New York and went on to the Royal Academy in Munich, Bavaria and then onto studies in Paris. Upon his return to America he began teaching classes in Alton, Illinois and eventually moved to St. Louis while continuing to teach in Alton at Shurtleff College. In St. Louis he occupied a chair in the St. Louis School of Fine Arts, closely associated with renowned art educator, Professor Halsey C. Ives. He was a good friend to Albon Jasper Conant, noted portrait painter of St. Louis and New York, eventually being called to New York to finish three portraits which Conant had been unable to complete because of failing sight because of his advanced age of 91 years.
Artists of his time considered Paul Harney to be a “connecting link” between the old school of arts represented by Conant, Meeker and Tracy, and the newer school which was started by Fry, Lippelt and others. (Post Dispatch 11/28/15). Paul Harney died on November 27, 1915 at Mount St. Rose Hospital and his funeral was held at the Artists’ Guild on Union Boulevard and Von Versen Avenue. His pall bearers were all founding members of the Guild, of which Harney was the eldest. He was cremated.
Harney was survived by his granddaughter, Paula Hoskins who lived with her grandmother in Sodality, Illinois.
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