Robert Melvin Decker (1847-1921) American
Birthplace/Origin: Troy, New York
Robert M. Decker was born in Troy, New York on June 8, 1847. He was well known during his career for his Realist paintings of Adirondack scenes. Decker studied painting under R. Swain Gifford and in 1883, when Decker was thirty-six he received his first important recognition at the National Academy of Design for his painting “Morning Among the Rockaway Hills”, which was bought by the Peabody family. Later when the Peabody collection was put up for sale at Silo’s Gallery in New York, that painting was in the company of such great artists as Corot, D.F. Dubigny, Bierstadt, and Courbet, among others. Also in 1883, in addition to the exhibition at the National Academy of Design, Decker exhibited a painting, ‘November Twilight’, in the annual exhibition of the Brooklyn Art Association.
Robert Decker was known to have exhibited at the following: Meyers Fine Art Gallery, University at Plattsburgh; Hyde Collection, Glens Falls, N.Y.; Montauk Club, Long Island; Pittsburgh Athletic Club; Williams and Everett, Boston; Gillespies, Pittsburgh; Helman-Taylor Galleries, Cleveland; Hillside House, Adirondacks.
An early article by an art critic from the ‘New York Herald’ describes Decker’s paintings as ‘notable examples of art subordinated to nature, as all true art should be…’ and goes on to refer to specific winter scenes that he viewed and enjoyed. Another ‘N.Y. Herald’ critic once stated ‘there are few whose love of nature is more intense than Mr. Decker’s’ and that the way Decker manages with his art to convey nature’s movement and moods in his snow scenes leaves ‘the observer spellbound’. His winter themes were admired for their simplicity, and for their power to concentrate the viewer’s attention, for example as they might when regarding one of his paintings of the rising of a hilly road, buried in deep, soft, dry snow. Decker was particularly talented with small canvases, and found favor with many critics because his works were ‘painted for all time’, not following a whim or school of art, but with truthful semblance of nature.
At the age of thirty-seven, Decker married Emma Haner, a wealthy woman, who was then twenty-eight. Theirs was not a happy marriage, although they remained together. Emma died at the age of 84, having survived Robert by nineteen years.