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The Sartain Family of Philadelphia

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The Sartain family –John, Samuel, Henry, Emily, William, and Harriet– was one of the most illustrious and influential families in the history of art in the United States. As artists, printmakers, and educators, the Sartains played a central part in Philadelphia’s and America’s art community.

[ Prints by John Sartain (large), (small) | Prints by Samuel Sartain | Prints by Emily Sartain | Prints by William Sartain ]
[ Sartain Historical prints | Reference book on Sartain family ]


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John Sartain

Root:  John Sartain John (1808-1897), the patriarch of the family, was born in England and apprenticed as an engraver. Seeking to establish himself as a printmaker, he emigrated in 1830 to Philadelphia, where he remained for the rest of his life. John has been called the ‘father of mezzotint engraving’ in the United States.


For over half a century, John Sartain engraved a large body of fine prints, including:

John Sartain achieved an influential status within the local and national art communities as a result of the extent and variety of his output, combined with the high quality of his mezzotints. John was a painter in oil and watercolor as well as a printmaker, and was involved in art education, serving as a director of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and on the board of the Philadelphia School of Design for Women, now Moore College of Art and Design. Sartain also served as art director for the Centennial Exposition of 1876.

M.A. Root. "John Sartain." From the Nineteenth Century. Philadelphia, ca. 1880. 5 x 4" Engraving. Very good condition.

The Nineteenth Century was a British literary magazine, founded in 1877 by Sir James Knowles. In 1901, the title was changed to Nineteenth Century and After. It was also published verbatim in the U.S. This portrait print was published for inclusion in the magazine. $55


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John Sartain's Descendants

Samuel Sartain (1830-1906) became a master printmaker under his father’s tutelage.

Henry Sartain (1833-1895) also became involved in the print world, but as a printer rather than a printmaker. He eventually established himself as the preeminent printer of engravings in Philadelphia.

Emily Sartain (1841-1927) was an artist of considerable skill who produced a quantity of fine prints. Emily served as principal of the Philadelphia School of Design for Women for 33 years, from 1886 until 1919.

William Sartain (1843-1924) was the youngest of John’s children to be involved in printmaking. Though better known as a painter of landscapes and Oriental scenes, William also produced prints of considerable quality, especially his mezzotint series of historical scenes and portraits. William left Philadelphia to live and work in New York and Paris.

Harriet Sartain (1873-1957) was Henry’s daughter and John’s granddaughter. Harriet painted landscapes and flowers in watercolor and served as dean of the Philadelphia School of Design for Women from 1920 to 1946.


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Philadelphia's Cultural Landscape Katharine Martinez and Page Talbott, eds. Philadelphia's Cultural Landscape. The Sartain Family Legacy. Philadelphia, 2000. Cloth. From 1830 to 1930, Sartain family members were prominent in the fields of printmaking, education, and art administration. Patriarch John was a well-respected engraver; his daughter Emily founded the art school for women now known as Moore College of Art and Design. Friends and colleagues included Mary Cassatt, Thomas Eakins, and Edgar Allan Poe. This compelling group of essays examines the work of this active family of artist-educators. $64.50




[ Prints by John Sartain (large), (small) | Prints by Samuel Sartain | Prints by Emily Sartain | Prints by William Sartain ]
[ Sartain Historical prints ]



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©The Philadelphia Print Shop, Ltd. Last updated April 19, 2013