MAY, Edward Harrison
(b. 1824, Croydon, d. 1887, Paris)
American painter, active in Paris. Born in Croydon, England, he was the son of Edward Harrison May Sr., a Dutch Reformed clergyman and was brought to America in 1834 when his father accepted a post in New York. After early training in civil engineering, May turned to art. He studied at the National Academy and with Daniel Huntington in New York; he focused on portraiture. After relocating to Paris in 1851 and entering the studio of Thomas Couture, he began producing historical and genre subjects. As with many American artists of the period, May's time in Paris inspired decisive changes in his style and subjects. On the whole, it stimulated the creation of technically advanced and thematically sophisticated works.
Recognized and celebrated in France and America, May was one of the first Americans to win a medal at a Paris Salon (1855); he was elected as a National Academician in 1878. May was recognized as a leader of the American artistic community in Paris, which included Sargent, Homer, and Cassatt.
During the Franco-Prussian War May served as a captain in the "American Ambulance" - a temporary military hospital staffed by volunteers from the American colony in Paris. He received a medal for his services during the war.
The career and work of Edward Harrison May is illustrative of the dynamic relationship between a nascent American school of art and the academies and ateliers of Paris during the later nineteenth century.