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Thomas Seir Cummings papers, circa 1824-1983, bulk circa 1824-1894

Biographical Note

New York painter Thomas Seir Cummings (1804-1894) was one of the most acclaimed miniaturists of the nineteenth century. He helped found the National Academy of Design in 1826, served as treasurer for almost forty years, and published a history of the organization in 1865.
Cummings was born in Bath, England, and was brought to New York City as an infant. He learned miniature painting from Henry Inman, with whom he worked in partnership from 1824 to 1827, focusing on portraiture. As interest in miniature portraiture declined with the growing popularity of photography, Cummings turned increasingly to teaching and writing. He taught miniature painting at the National Academy from 1831 to 1838, became a fine arts professor at New York University in 1844, and founded the Cummings School of Design in 1846.
His contributions to the National Academy of Design included serving as treasurer from 1827 to 1865, vice president from 1850-1859, and chairman of the committee that erected the present home of the academy. Cummings also led the development of the academy's art instructional program during the late-1850s to mid-1860s and, in 1865, published Historic Annals of the National Academy of Design. This seminal history of the academy's early years is also considered an important history of early American art.
Cummings later settled in Hackensack, New Jersey, where he died in 1894.