(1839 - 1929)
Known as a painter of Civil War marine battle scenes, Xanthus Smith sold his first paintings at age fifteen. Two years later he exhibited at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, and by the start of the Civil War, he was an established painter. His signature paintings after the War were small and had minute brushstrokes, blending clouds and sky with space well defined.
He was born and raised in suburban Philadelphia, and learned much of his painting technique from his mother, Mary Priscilla Smith, who was an accomplished painter in a delicate manner of flowers in watercolor. His father was a theater scene painter whose style was much bolder and aggressive than his wife's.
Xanthus served in the Union Navy from September, 1862 and painted while serving as a captain's clerk. He saw limited action, but his love of the sea led to a series of naval scenes, painted between 1869 and 1874. His studio was in Philadelphia, where he also sold many marine and landscape paintings, most of them small about eight by twelve inches. One of his paintings was a 30-foot long beach scene of Cape May, New Jersey, which was painted for the Pennsylvania Railroad.
He also painted portraits and did photography, but painting Civil War scenes remained a life-long specialty.