William F. Cogswell (1819 - 1903)

Birth date: 1819 Death date: 1903  
Birth location: Sandusky, New York Death location: Pasadena, California  
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William F. Cogswell
1819 Sandusky, New York
1903 Pasadena, California

William F. Cogswell was born in Sandusky, New York in 1819. His interest in art having taken root during childhood, Cogswell worked in a paint mixing factory in Buffalo, New York as a young man before moving to New York City to work as a professional painter. Known mainly to have lived in New York and later in life, in California, Cogswell was a prolific portraitist and a self-taught artist who reportedly never received a lesson in his life.

Cogswell is linked to Wisconsin through the portraits he painted for the Wisconsin Historical Society between 1861 and 1868. At the request of the Society's founder, Lyman Draper, Cogswell painted the portraits of numerous prominent Wisconsinites, including state and territorial governors. During this time, it is believed that he lived in Janesville, Wisconsin, although he also kept a studio in Chicago  where he often worked from daguerreotypes and engravings. 

Cogswell is most well- know for his portraits of President  Abraham Lincoln and General Ulysses S. Grant, both painted during the time when he is thought to have been living in Wisconsin. The Lincoln portrait was the winner in a contest held by the United States Senate for Lincoln portraits, winning him $3,000.

By 1873, Cogswell is known to have been living in Pasadena, California, where he painted the portraits of many early California governors and where he remained until his death in 1903. Many of the Wisconsin portraits painted by Cogswell presently remain in the Wisconsin State Historical Society's collection.

Wisconsin Affiliations

Wisconsin Art Organizations

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