Going to Potlatch

by Sydney Laurence
oil on canvas 16 x 24

Sydney Laurence was an award-winning artist well before he arrived in Alaska. Born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1865, he studied at the Art Students League in New York and was a working painter exhibiting in that city in the late 1880s. He married another artist, Alexandrina Dupre’ in 1889 and they immediately set sail for England. They lived and worked in the well-established artist colony in St. Ives, on the Cornish coast. Laurence showed his work in London and at the Paris Salon, winning an honorable mention at one Salon show.

In 1900 Laurence accepted a position as artist-correspondent (today’s photojournalist, after a fashion) for London magazines. It would seem he went far afield to record the events of the day, from the Boer Wars to the

Boxer Rebellion. It may have been this experience which instilled in him a strong wanderlust, for he left his wife and family in 1904 and moved to Alaska. Initially he worked as a prospector and pioneer, seemingly abandoning his art. He did eventually move from Valdez to Anchorage, took up painting again, and by 1920 was one of Alaska’s most prominent artists. He travelled all over the state, depicting Alaskan life and landscapes.