A family of distinguished U.S. artists and authors founded by Jean Frédéric de la Farge, a refugee from Revolutionary France, who arrived in the United States in 1807 and settled near the present LaFargeville in upper New York State, and his wife Louisa, daughter of emigré Louis François Binsse de St. Victor (1774–1884), a miniaturist.
John. Artist and author; b. New York, March 3, 1835; d. Providence, R. I., Nov. 14, 1910. A son of Jean Frédéric and Louisa, he attended St. John's College (now Fordham University), New York City, and graduated (1853) from Mt. St. Mary's College, Emmitsburg, Md. He was preparing for law, but went to Paris (1856) and enrolled briefly in Thomas Couture's studio, apparently without any notion of becoming an artist. He met French intellectuals through his cousin, the literary critic Paul Bins, Comte de St. Victor (1825–81), encountered the Pre-Raphaelites in England, and haunted the art galleries. He came under the influence of William Morris Hunt, a Couture disciple, at Newport, R.I, in 1859 and began a serious interest in art. His early works were chiefly landscapes that somewhat anticipated impressionism as well as plein-air painting.
Never robust after a serious illness in the 1860s, LaFarge nevertheless served on the committee set up to establish the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Shortly thereafter he began mural painting and, through his collaboration with architects, realized a fusion of building and decorative arts for the first time in the United States. His work appears in Trinity Church, Boston, planned with the architect H. H. Richardson; the Capitol, St. Paul, Minnesota; the Supreme Court building in Baltimore; the Church of the Ascension, New York City (probably his masterpiece); and in private New York mansions. His experiments in stained-glass design, which led to the invention of "opaline" glass and the creation of the jewel-like "Peacock Window" in the art museum at Worcester, Massachusetts, brought new life to this supposedly dead medium. He was also in the vanguard of European and U. S. artists who evinced interest in the art of the Pacific Islands. His voyage to Japan and the South Seas with his close friend Henry adams in 1886 occasioned an important series of water colors. In 1899 he "incited" Adams to visit Chartres with him to study the windows, about which Adams philosophizes in his classic Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres.
LaFarge was a stimulating writer and lecturer. His Considerations on Painting (1895) originated as lectures at New York's Metropolitan Museum. In 1897 he published An Artist's Letters from Japan and a monograph on the Japanese artist Hokusai (1760–1859). LaFarge possessed, according to Adams, the most complex mind in the United States. To the art critic Royal Cortissoz, his biographer, he stated: "Painting is, more than people think, a question of brains." This attitude probably reveals both the strength and weakness of his work; in certain of his murals, for example, the desired effect is somewhat marred by an overly meticulous regard for detail. His achievement was substantial, however, both in his own works and in his influence.
LaFarge married (1860) Margaret Mason, granddaughter of Commodore Matthew C. Perry and great-granddaughter of Benjamin Franklin, and fathered nine children; among them were Christopher Grant, John Louis Bancel, and John.
Bibliography: r. cortissoz, John LaFarge (Boston 1911). j. lafarge, The Manner Is Ordinary (New York 1954). s. isham, History of American Painting (New York 1927). o. w. larkin, Art and Life in America (rev. ed. New York 1960). h. adams, The Education of Henry Adams (Boston 1961).
Christopher Grant. Eldest son of John, architect; b. Newport, R. I., Jan. 5, 1862, d. Saunderstown, R. I., Oct. 11, 1938. After two years at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a two-year apprenticeship with H. H. Richardson, he formed (1886) a partnership with George L. Hains, and their Romanesque design won the competition for the cathedral of St. John the Divine, New York City. He devoted most of his time and talent to this project until, after the completion of the choir in 1907, all work was halted, a new competition held, and the firm of Cram, Goodhue, and Ferguson was selected to complete the cathedral in Gothic style. Although bitterly disappointed, LaFarge continued to serve his profession, not only with distinguished designs, but also as a fellow, director, and vice president of the American Institute of Architects and as chairman of the advisory committee of the architecture schools at Columbia University in New York City and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. As a member of the American Institute of Architects Committee for Education, he visited schools of architecture, lecturing on cultural aspects of the profession. Other LaFarge designs are the Fourth Presbyterian Church, New York City; the U.S. Naval Hospital, Brooklyn; buildings for the New York City Zoological Society (of which he was a founder); St. Paul's Church, Rochester, N. Y.; the Houghton Memorial Chapel, Wellesley College, Wellesley, Massachusetts; the Parkhard Memorial Library, Salt Lake City, Utah; the Morgan Building and Williams Memorial, Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut; and St. Matthew's Cathedral, Washington, D.C. He was the husband of Florence Bayard Lockwood and father of poet, novelist, and architect Christopher Grant (1897–1956) and writer and social scientist Oliver Hazard Perry (1901–1963).
Bibliography: j. lafarge, op. cit.
John Louis Bancel. Second son of John, artist and designer; b. Newport, R. I., Sept. 23, 1865; d. Mount Carmel, Conn., Aug. 14, 1938. After a year at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, a serious eye infection caused him to abandon this study in 1885. He turned to art, and after a brief apprenticeship in his father's New York studio, he studied in Europe for 12 years. He maintained close association with his father in the latter's business affairs. His major art work was related to church architecture and public buildings and included murals, mosaics, and stained glass; but he was known as well for his landscapes and figure painting. His most outstanding piece is the mosaic of the coronation of the Virgin Mary in the chapel of Trinity College, Washington, D.C. Other notable creations are the four altarpieces for the Church of the Immaculate Conception at Newport (his earliest commission); and mural decorations for the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.; St. Charles Seminary, Catonsville, Maryland; Sacred Heart Chapel, St. Paul, Minnesota; St. Aidan's Chapel, New Haven, Connecticut; and the New Haven public library. Examples of his work in stained glass are found in the Sacred Heart Chapel in St. Paul and the Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Mount Carmel, California. He served with the Connecticut State Commission on Sculpture and with the national competitions jury sponsored by the U.S. Treasury Department for the decoration of government buildings. Yale University awarded him an honorary B. F. A. in 1917. He was a member of the National Institute of Arts and Letters, the National Society of Mural Painters, the New York Water Color Club, Liturgical Arts Society (president), and honorary member of the American Institute of Architects. He married Mabel Hooper in 1898 and they had four children: Louis Bancel, Edward Hooper, Henry Adams, and Thomas Sergeant LaFarge. Thomas Sergeant (1904–1943), an assistant to his father, was lost at sea during World War II.
Bibliography: j. lafarge, op. cit. New York Times (Aug. 15, 1938) 15:1, obituary.
John. Third son of John, editor, journalist, founder of the Catholic interracial movement in the United States; b. Newport, R. I., Feb. 13, 1880; d. New York City, Nov. 24, 1963. His early education was largely private; he entered Harvard College in 1897 and graduated in 1901. He studied for the priesthood at the University of Innsbruck, Austria, where he was ordained on July 26, 1905. He entered the Society of Jesus on Nov. 12, 1905, at Poughkeepsie, New York, and after two years of noviceship taught for a year at Canisius College in Buffalo and later at Loyola College in Baltimore. Two years of study at Woodstock College in Maryland earned him an M. A. in philosophy, but ill health forced him to abandon hope of reviewing theology. One year was spent as chaplain in the penal and hospital institutions of New York City, followed by 15 years of pastoral labor in the Jesuit missions in Charles and St. Mary's counties in southern Maryland. It was there he witnessed first hand racial prejudice and exploitation of the blacks. This period was interrupted for a year (1916–17) by studies in ascetical theology at St. Andrew-on-Hudson in Poughkeepsie. In August of 1926 he was appointed an associate editor of America, the national Catholic weekly review, a position he held until his death, except for two years as executive editor and four years as editor in chief.
Upon his return to New York City in 1926, LaFarge began his long apostolate for interracial justice in the pages of America, on the lecture platform, and principally through the formation of the Catholic Interracial Councils and their organ, the Interracial Review. The forerunner of this body had been the Catholic Laymen's Union, a group of Afro-American Catholics brought together by LaFarge to develop a program of spiritual formation and study of race relations. On Pentecost Sunday 1934 the union expanded into the first Catholic Interracial Council. In 1958 the 40 such councils established across the country held their first national convention in Chicago and established the national catholic conference for interracial justice, with offices in Chicago and New York. The conference has been a strong voice for the Catholic position on civil rights and has widened the influence LaFarge first gave to the movement. The previous year (1937) LaFarge published Interracial Justice: A Study of the Catholic Doctrine of Race Relations in which he condemned racism as sinful.
LaFarge was also chaplain of the liturgical arts society from its foundation in 1933, of the St. Ansgar's Scandinavian Catholic League, and of the Catholic Laymen's Union, all of New York. At various times he was an officer of the Catholic Association for International Peace and of the National Catholic Rural Life Conference.
Besides his signed and unsigned contributions to America, he contributed to Études (Paris), Civiltà Cattolica (Rome), Criterio (Argentina), Stimmen der Zeit (Munich), Streven (Brussels), De Linie (Amsterdam), the Month (England), as well as numerous American reviews. In 1947 he delivered the Dudleian Lecture at Harvard University Divinity School and the Phi Beta Kappa oration at the Harvard College commencement of 1954. In 1958 he lectured in French at the Cours International of the Benedictine Monastery of Toumliline, Morocco. In 1961 he was a traveling consultant in Germany for the U.S. Department of State. Of his frequent book reviews, some two or three a month for about 35 years, most appeared in America, but some also appeared in Thought, Interracial Review, New York Times, Saturday Review, New York Herald Tribune, and other publications. He also wrote several pamphlets for the America Press.
LaFarge was a fellow of the National Academy of Arts and Sciences (Boston), a member in 1947 of Panel VII (Rockefeller Brothers Report on Foreign Policy), and one of the 147 electors of the National Hall of Fame (New York University, 1960). He was the recipient of many awards, among them the American Liberties Medallion of the American Jewish Committee and the annual Campion Award of the Catholic Book Club. He published two autobiographical works, The Manner Is Ordinary (1954) and Reflections on Growing Old (1963). His other works include Jesuits in Modern Times (1927), The Race Question and the Negro (1953), The Catholic Viewpoint on Race Relations (1956), and An American Amen (1958).
Bibliography: j. lafarge, op. cit. America 109 (Dec. 7,1963) 725. Publishers Weekly 184 (Dec. 9, 1963) 27–28. r. hecht, An Unordinary Man: A Life of John LaFarge, S.J. (Metuchen, N.J.1996) d. suthern, John LaFarge and the Limits of Catholic Interracialism (Baton Rouge 1996). m. w. nickels, The Federated Colored Catholics: A Study of Three Varied Perspectives on Racial Justice as Represented by John LaFarge, William Markoe, and Thomas Turner (PhD Dissertation, Catholic University of America 1975).
[p. s. hurley]