Lot 276    

Joseph Hubert Diss Debar Sketchbook
11/17/2012 - Fall Fine and Decorative Art: Live Salesroom Auction
Joseph Hubert Diss Debar (American, born France, 1820-1905). A sketchbook with brown hardcover binding, embossed gold title, SKETCHES / J. H. D. D., including 61 total pages, 59 of which include over 250 sketches in pencil, pen and ink, and watercolors tipped in to front and back of most pages, with the majority labeled with descriptive titles all on sheets measuring 11.5 x 14.25 in. The images include original work by Debar and copies after other artists. Some of the images are loose within the sketchbook. Also included are several photographic reproductions of Debar’s work. An article about Debar in the December 1931 issue of The West Virginia Review is bound inside the front cover of sketchbook.

Debar was an accomplished artist, author, builder, pioneer and social leader. He was born in Strasbourg, Alsace, then a province of France, in 1820, into a prosperous family. He received a classical education in Strasbourg and Paris and was fluent in the French, German and English languages, and he trained as an artist under masters in Paris. Always the adventurer, Debar was not content to remain in his homeland. Instead, he set sail for America in hopes of shaping and guiding the untamed frontier. Sailing on the Cunard steamer, Britannia, from Liverpool, England to Boston, Massachusetts, in the early 1840s, Debar was delighted to find himself in the company of fellow traveler Charles Dickens, the British literary genius. The two developed a friendship on the journey and, as documented in Dickens’ American Notes, the author came to the young Frenchman’s aid during an unfortunate gambling episode. Holding Dickens in the greatest esteem, Debar painted an oil portrait of the author which was acquired by the West Virginia Division of Culture and History, Department of Archives and History. Debar’s additional images of Dickens are wonderfully accurate depictions of the confident young author.
Once in America, Debar moved from one major city to another before settling in what is now West Virginia. There he set up business, did surveying, acted as a land agent, and eventually became involved in the political fabric of the state. Ever the idealist, Debar sought to transform what would become the state of West Virginia from its exclusive and conservative aristocratic traditions to a booming center of commerce and trade. In 1863 the legislature appointed Debar to make drawings for a state seal and coat-of-arms. These designs became the official seal and coat-of-arms for the state when West Virginia came into the union.
In addition to his political and business contributions to the state, Debar, through his writings and sketches, became an important documentarian for West Virginia. He created countless sketches of the state’s noteworthy political figures and its rapidly developing landscape. In 1870, Debar wrote and illustrated The West Virginia Handbook and Immigrant’s Guide: A Sketch of the State of West Virginia. He remained in West Virginia until about 1875 when he left for Philadelphia, remaining there until his death in 1905.
Debar’s sketchbook is an exquisite documentation of American history. It provides a visual record of a growing nation at a pivotal point in history. The sketchbook is organized chronologically and is divided into sections based on geography. The sections are labeled Alsace / 1832-5Paris 1835-40In America / 1840In West Virginia / 1846-75The Civil War / 1861-65Kansas / 1880,Visit to Europe / 1881-2Supplementary / of various dates and places all in pencil. The Alsace section includes quaint landscape scenes, depictions of rural life, and prominent citizens such as military officers. The Paris section title page is adorned with a tranquil landscape watercolor. The images from Paris include sketches of Alexandre Dumas, the French writer, and Adolphe Thiers, the author of The History of the French Revolution.
Debar’s journey to America on the Britannia is illustrated in the American section. This section includes the two images of Charles Dickens, several watercolors of Niagara Falls with one notated Sketched from nature and finished on the spot with three poor watercolors borrowed from Mif Whitne, daughter of the proprietor of the Cataract House, Niaga [sic] Village, July 1840, and images of people of political and military importance, such as General Almonte and Professor Maroncelli, the Italian Patriot and fellow prisoner of Silvio Pellico.
During his many years in West Virginia, Debar recorded the landscape and its people. Rural and picturesque images are abundant in the West Virginia section. The sketch titled Going deer hunting on Tanner’s Fork, Henry Schmitt, The Artist, Pioneer Bill Patton, July 1846 is beautifully rendered and intricately detailed. This section includes images of the Honorable John S. Duncan and Major James M. Jackson, both of Clarksburg, in 1846, tipped in with additional sketches of political figures and a horse. (The West Virginia Division of Culture and History, Department of Archives and History has a similar Debar sketch of Duncan and Jackson, also dated 1846). From life, Debar sketched Alexander Scott Withers, the author of Chronicles of Border Warfare, or, A History of the Settlement by the Whites, of north-western Virginia: and of the Indian wars and massacres, in that section of the state; with reflections, anecdotes, &c. (For a similar example see the collection of Debar sketches in the West Virginia Archives and History). This image is set amongst other small sketches including that of a Miami Indian copied from Withers’ collection.
The Civil War section includes a depiction of Abraham Lincoln at the Willard Hotel in Washington in June of 1864 (also in the collection of the West Virginia Archives and History). Debar’s Lincoln is similar to an image of Lincoln by Pierre Morand. Also in this section is an image of the first military rebel prisoners at Grafton, West Virginia in June of 1864 and one titled Members of the W.Va Legislature receiving doubtful news pending / The Battle of Gettysburg, 3rd July 1863.
The final sections of the sketchbook include additional images of Alsace, sketches of Albert Bierstadt, Charles Dickens and his wife and Ephraim Bee and a Centennial show card from the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition of 1876. Cowan’s is pleased to offer this sketchbook, a prize relic of the American past. For additional information see Boyd B. Stutler, “Joseph H. Diss Debar-Prophet, Colonizer” in The West Virginia Review (December, 1931): 154-56, 171. 

Wear to cover, binding is slightly loose, toning and foxing to some images, minor tears on some pages. Not all images are tipped in.
Sold: $12,000.00
Price includes
Buyer's Premium
      Ask a Question

All Images

don't miss

an opportunity to bid. You can't win if you're not in.

sign up to bid

what's it worth?

ask the experts

sell your item

start selling
Shiraz Rug
Lot # 456 - Shiraz Rug
Iranian. A Shiraz rug with central medallion; 4 ft., 6 in. x 6 ft., 9 in. (54 in. x 81 in.; 137 x 206 cm). > Item Details
Silver Dollar Safe
Lot # 209 - Silver Dollar Safe
American, early 20th century. A black metal safe on steel casters, manufactured by the Silver Dollar Safe Company; ht. 22, wd. 14, dp. 16.5 in. > Item Details
Shona Stone Rhino and Calf Sculpture
Lot # 389 - Shona Stone Rhino and Calf Sculpture
Zimbabwe, Africa, 20th century. A Verdite Shona stone rhino and calf on a pedestal; ht. 14.5, wd. 20 in. The Shona people comprise eighty percent of Zimbabwe’s population, hence the art form has been termed “Shona Sculpture”. > Item Details
Waterfall at Sunset
Lot # 296 - Waterfall at Sunset
Probably American, late 19th-early 20th century.  Oil on canvas painting of a waterfall streaming into a lake or river with a rocky, wooded shore at sunset; 13.25 x 21.5 in. (sight). > Item Details
George III Sterling Grape Scissors
Lot # 13 - George III Sterling Grape Scissors
English, 1809. A pair of George III sterling silver gilt grape scissors hallmarked for London, dated 1809, and hallmarked WE / WF / WC for William Eley, William Fearn, and William Chawner (w. 1808-?); lg. 7.5 in., silver wt. 3.7ozt (115g). > Item Details
Boehm <i>Young and Spirited</i>
Lot # 409 - Boehm Young and Spirited
American, 1976.  A painted porcelain Boehm eaglet figural group perched on a branch, signed Boehm on base, marked Boehm / Edward Marshall Boehm / American Bald Eagle / 400-49 / "Young and Spirited" / 1976 / Commemorating our Nation's / 200th Anniversary on bottom; ht. 9.5 in.... > Item Details
Oyster Shell Mirror
Lot # 203 - Oyster Shell Mirror
American, 20th century. A folk art mirror, having a frame comprised of oyster shells with green painted accents; ht. 27.5, wd. 25 in. > Item Details
Rhode Island Coin Silver Beakers
Lot # 31 - Rhode Island Coin Silver Beakers
American (Newport, RI), early 19th century. A pair of coin silver beakers of cylindrical form,  each engraved with two initials within a bright-cut shield, and struck N.Freeborn within a serrated cartouche.  Noel Freeborn (b. 1787-1869) was a silversmith working in Newport, RI, from 1810 t... > Item Details
Landscape by Cliff Summerville
Lot # 324 - Landscape by Cliff Summerville
Cliff Summerville (American, b. 1892).  Oil on canvas painting of a tree shading a rural road, signed Cliff Summerville-40; 23.5 x 27.5 in. (sight). > Item Details
American Cut Glass Vase
Lot # 82 - American Cut Glass Vase
American, late 19th century.  A colorless cut glass vase with circular foot, probably by Dorflinger (active 1852-1921 in Pennsylvania), unmarked; ht. 14 in. > Item Details
Bronze Donkeys by Carl Lewis Pappe
Lot # 400 - Bronze Donkeys by Carl Lewis Pappe
Carl Lewis Pappe (Hungarian, 1900-1998).  A pair of bronze donkeys, one rising on a wooden base with CARL PAPPE / TAXCO 74 incised in bronze, the other with CARL PAPPE / TAXCO / ROSITA incised in bronze; tallest ht. 9 in. Pappe was an American-trained artist who settled in Mexico. His work e... > Item Details
Wooded Landscape by William A. Eyden Jr.
Lot # 293 - Wooded Landscape by William A. Eyden Jr.
William A. Eyden Jr. (Indiana, 1893-1982), 20th century. Oil on board, signed l.l.; 22.75 x 34 in. (sight). > Item Details
<i>Martin Brothers</i> Untitled Vessel ca 1880
Lot # 445 - Martin Brothers Untitled Vessel ca 1880
British, 19th century. Martin Brothers tall stoneware pitcher with modeled, incised and slip decoration in a leaf and branch design. Marked 7.11.SI, R. Martin, London & Southall; ht. 8.75, wd. 2.5in. > Item Details
Federal Mahogany  Desk and Bookcase
Lot # 180 - Federal Mahogany Desk and Bookcase
American, ca 1815. A Federal inlaid desk and bookcase of mahogany with pine secondary, possibly New Hampshire or Connecticut, the upper case with molded cornice over two glazed doors and fixed interior shelves over three aligned drawers, lower case with hinged foldover writing surface, over two grad... > Item Details
Autumn Landscape with Oak Tree and Deer by Francis Clark Brown
Lot # 231 - Autumn Landscape with Oak Tree and Deer by Francis Clark Brown
Francis Clark Brown (Indiana, 1908-1992), 20th century. Oil on canvas, signed l.r., inscribed on verso 1/2 mile south of park, A Mighty Oak; 24.5 x 29.5 in. (sight). An Indiana artist, Francis Brown frequently chose to paint rural Indiana subjects. > Item Details
<i>Over the Treetops</i> by Frank Weston Benson
Lot # 311 - Over the Treetops by Frank Weston Benson
Frank Weston Benson (American, 1862-1951), 1915. Etching on paper from an edition of 54, signed in graphite l.l., inscribed to C. H. Woodbury  in graphite at lower margin, catalogue raisonné Paff 845 x 8 in. (plate). EXHIBITIONS: 1916, Chicago Society of Etchings 1916, Muse... > Item Details
 Still Lifes of Fruit
Lot # 227 - Still Lifes of Fruit
Charles James Adams (British, 1859-1931).  Watercolor on paper, three still lifes of fruit, including two vertical, signed l.l., and one horizontal, signed l.r.; two 37.5 x 12.5 in., one 12.5 x 37.5 in. > Item Details
Grain Painted Blanket Chest
Lot # 192 - Grain Painted Blanket Chest
Likely Canadian, late 19th-early 20th century. Yellow, red ochre and black grain painted pine blanket chest with lower drawer, modified French feet, and stamped pulls; ht. 33, wd. 47, dp. 22 in. The piece is painted and constructed in the manner of the Mennonites of Ontario, Canada... > Item Details
Boehm <i>Wood Thrushes</i>
Lot # 417 - Boehm Wood Thrushes
American.  A painted porcelain Boehm Wood Thrush mother with nest full of chicks, situated atop a flowering branch, signed Boehm, marked Boehm / Limited Edition / Wood Thrushes / 485 on bottom; ht. 15.5 in. > Item Details
Staffordshire Stirrup Cups
Lot # 117 - Staffordshire Stirrup Cups
English, 19th century.  Two painted, porcelain Staffordshire stirrup cups, one of a brown and white hound, marked Turner, and the other of a red fox, unmarked; largest lg. 6.25 in. > Item Details
ITEMS 1-20 of 20