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Earl Horter
Nationality: 
american
Gender: 
Male
Birth Date: 
1880
Birth Place: 
Philadelphia
Death Date: 
1940
Death Place: 
Philadelphia
A painter, draftsman and printmaker who also worked for advertising agencies as a commercial artist, Earl Horter amassed a notable collection of modern art, African sculptures and Native American art during the 1920s. Born in Philadelphia in 1880, little is known about is early life and artistic training. Horter was described as a landscape artist in the census of 1900. He was hired by the Calkins and Holden advertising agency in New York City around 1903, based on his ability as a draftsman. He apparently took classes in etching at night, with his first etching dated to 1908. He married the first of his four wives in 1909. Horter quickly established a reputation as an etcher. In 1911 he was one of three artists (including Joseph Pennell [1857-1926]) commissioned by the New York Edison Company to create illustrations of scenes of New York for “Glimpses of New York: An Illustrated Handbook of the City.” In 1914 he showed his works at the first exhibition of the New York Society of Etchers, for which he was also a juror and the secretary. Horter exhibited four etchings in San Francisco’s Panama-Pacific International Exposition of 1915, where he received a silver medal. The following year his first solo show of 30 etchings and 33 drawings was held at the Frederick Keppel and Company gallery. Later in 1916 Horter agreed to join the N. W. Ayer and Son advertising agency in Philadelphia, where he started work the following January. He soon rose to the position of an art director. One of his significant projects was to travel in the United States and Europe creating drawings using the Joseph Dixon Crucible Company’s “Eldorado” pencil, a specialty product sold to artists and architects. Over a period of years Horter produced about 55 drawings that appeared in Dixon’s advertisements. Horter’s collecting career had begun by 1913, when he purchased a set of thirteen lithographs by Édouard Vuillard at the New York Armory Show. His interest in modern art was developed through his friendship with a group of Philadelphia artists, particularly two instructors at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Arthur Beecher Carles (1882-1952) and Henry McCarter (1866-1942), and collectors associated with them, most notably Dr. Albert C. Barnes (1872-1951). By 1920 Horter had acquired prints by other modern masters, including Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901), Maurice Denis (1870-1943) and Käthe Kollwitz (1867-1945), some of which he lent to an exhibition at the Pennsylvania Academy organized by Carles and others. During the 1920s Horter continued to purchase art, most notably about 30 Cubist works by Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) and Georges Braque (1882-1963). Other works in his collection included two paintings by Juan Gris (1887-1927), one by Henri Matisse (1869-1954), Marcel Duchamp’s (1887-1968) “Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 1” (1911, Philadelphia Museum of Art) and four sculptures by Constantin Brancusi (1876-1957). He also collected American artists, including works by Carles, Charles Sheeler (1883-1965) and John Marin (1872-1953). While Horter continued to paint in oils and watercolors, make prints and exhibit, most of his income came from his work as a free-lance commercial artist, having ended full-time employment with N. W. Ayer in 1923. The onset of the Depression reduced the number of advertising commissions he received His extensive art purchases, expensive homes and expenses from his divorces stretched his finances. He turned to teaching and in the 1930s began selling works from his collection. By the end of the decade most of his collection of modern art had been sold, but he continued to purchase Native American artifacts. He died of a heart attack on March 29, 1940. The Philadelphia Art Alliance held a memorial exhibition with some two hundred of his works the following November. (TNB 10/2015) Selected bibliography: Shoemaker, Innis Howe, Christa Clarke and William Wierzbowski. Mad for Modernism: Earl Horter and His Collection. Exhibition catalog. Philadelphia: Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1999.