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Joseph Strong
(1852 - 1900)


Camp Crocker G Company
Second Artillery
National Guard Company

Del Monte Hotel, Monterey
July 4th, 1880
Oil on canvas
36" x 46"

Joseph Strong (1852 - 1900)

 

The son of a congregational minister, Joseph Strong, was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut, in 1852. When his father became minister of the Fort Street Church in Honolulu, Joseph moved with his family and spent part of his childhood in Hawaii. Perhaps this early brush with the islands had a lasting effect, as he was to become one of Hawaii's most prominent landscape and portrait artists as an adult.

 

Strong's family returned to the mainland in 1859, moving to Oakland, California. As a young man, he studied at the California School of Design with Virgil Williams, who was to have a pronounced influence on his pupil, encouraging him to follow the teachings of the Munich rather than the more popular Parisian school of painting. Strong was already such a talent at a young age that a portrait he painted of the mayor of Oakland impressed the citizenry so much that they funded his trip to Munich. From 1875 to 1877, he studied there with Carl Piloty and an artist named Wagner. He exhibited at the Royal Academy, winning two medals, and also at the National Academy of Design.

 

Returning to California in 1877, Strong became an established artist in San Francisco, where he opened a studio on Montgomery Street. He was a sought-after portraitist whose circle of friends included other artists popular in the area, such as Jules Tavernier. Strong had followed Tavernier to Monterey when he met another fellow artist and the woman who would become his wife, Isobel Osbourne. They married in 1879. He received a commission from Charles Crocker to paint an artwork celebrating the completion of the Monterey Railroad Link from San Francisco. It is titled Camp Crocker, Del Monte Hotel, 1879. The success of this painting secured him many future Commissions. The Strongs moved to Hawaii in 1882.  

 

The Strongs had initially moved to fulfill a commission for the John D. Spreckels Company, painting landscapes for its San Francisco office. Spreckels was the owner of many sugar plantations in Hawaii and the Oceanic Steamship Company, which he was looking to advance. Both because of his great talent and his wife's flair for promoting it, Strong was soon rubbing shoulders with the local royalty and receiving important portrait commissions as a result. He painted three large works for King Kalakaua between 1885 and 1886 and was the official artist aboard the Hawaiian embassy boat, "Kaimilea," to Samoa in 1887. Additionally, Strong's landscapes were well admired and garnered many royal commissions. He also sold black and white gouache drawings of the region to various magazines. Upon arriving in Honolulu, Strong had reunited with his old friend, Tavernier, and the two shared studio space and painting excursions, particularly to the local volcanoes. Strong's ability to capture the lava formations on canvas earned him fame as one of the three "old masters" of the Volcano School. 

 

In 1890, Strong and his wife moved to Samoa, joining his mother-in-law, Fanny Osbourne, and her husband, Robert Louis Stevenson, who was developing an estate there.