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George Laurence Nelson was born into a family of artists. His father, Carl Hirschberg, studied under Cabanel in Paris, was active at the Art Students League, was was co-founder of the Salmagundi Club. His mother, Alice Kerr-Nelson, was a proficient watercolorist and had collaborated on paintings with W.M. Chase and C. Y. Turner. Nelson began his artistic training under their influence and care. By the age of ten he was publishing a magazine with his writings and drawings. Nelson attended high school in Buffalo where his parents had moved. After high school, Nelson same to New York where he studied at the Art Students League and at the National Academy (1906-08). He was then made assistant instructor in the Academy Night School It was in this New York period that Nelson changed his name because of rampant anti-German sentiments. Nelson’s first large commissions included copying 20 old master paintings at the Metropolitan Museum for Mrs. Henry Clay Frick and 64 portraits for King George V of England. These latter were completed in London where Nelson traveled in 1911. He then went on to Paris where he studied under Laurens and Constant at the Academie Julian and under Gerome at the Beaux-Arts. He returned to New York in 1913 because of his mother’s illness. Back in New York, Nelson was made a full instructor at the Academy where he taught the antique class until 1941. He also taught at the Cooper Union. Nelson began spending summers in Kent, Connecticut in 1915. In 1916 he married Hermine Charlotta Redgrave, a writer, whom he met when Redgrave was assigned to do an interview of him for the New York Globe. On the outbreak of World War I, Nelson worked as a draftsman for the Warren MacArthur Company in Bantam, CT., for two and a half years. Because of crowded conditions in New York, the Nelsons decided to remain in the country and in 1919 they purchased a home in Kent, Connecticut, which they called Seven Hearths because of its seven fireplaces. After World War II, they lived in Kent year round, and became very active in the artistic life of the town. They cultivated a beautiful flower garden there, from which Nelson drew the subject matter for his flower paintings. As a child Nelson began to work in crayon, and under his mother’s influence he worked in watercolor. In Paris he began to work in oil. In 1925 he took up lithography. His attention turned to many subjects, portraiture, landscape, flower painting and still life. He was known particularly as a portraitist and was never short of commissions. He was principally influenced by Whistler and Sargent. Nelson bequeathed his home to the Kent Historical Society, which now makes its headquarters there. The house is open to the public in the summers. He first exhibited at the NAD when he was eighteen. His work was handled by the Grand Central Art Galleries.


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