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Minnesota Artists

Alexis Jean Fournier: The Local Scene
Alexis Jean Fournier<br>American, 1865-1948<br><i>Farnham’s Mill at St. Anthony Falls, Minneapolis</i>, 1888<br>Oil on canvas<br>Minneapolis Institute of Arts<br>The Julia B. Bigelow Fund
zoom Alexis Jean Fournier
American, 1865-1948
Farnham’s Mill at St. Anthony Falls, Minneapolis, 1888
Oil on canvas
Minneapolis Institute of Arts
The Julia B. Bigelow Fund


Working as a sign and stage scenery painter gave Alexis Jean Fournier the practice he needed to build a career as an artist. Toting his paints, brushes, and canvas he searched the city and countryside for subjects, painting outdoors with the scene before his eyes. By 1886 Fournier had achieved his goal of becoming a self-employed landscape painter with a studio on Nicollet Avenue in Minneapolis. There he attracted patrons such as James J. Hill, the wealthy St. Paul railroad and lumber entrepreneur, who supported Fournier’s work.

In the summer of 1888, the young Minnesota artist painted a series of six views of Minneapolis, including Farnham’s Mill at St. Anthony Falls, Minneapolis. This picture shows one of the earliest (and longest running) sawmills in Minneapolis, built on the west side of Hennepin Island next to St. Anthony Falls. Located on the Mississippi River between the towns of Minneapolis and St. Anthony, the falls made this area a thriving center of industrial activity in the 19th century. Mills for producing lumber and flour lined both riverbanks, with the powerful falls supplying inexpensive energy to run them. For fifty years, beginning in 1880, Minneapolis was known as the flour-milling capital of the world.

With great attention to detail, Fournier created an accurate view of the mill and the young city beyond. This thorough record of the local scene includes the tower of the Exposition Building (behind and to the left of the mill), which had opened two years earlier, in 1886 (it was later torn down). Fournier’s paintings capture the growth of Minneapolis and preserve a historical view of other locations in Minnesota. Through them we can step back in time.

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1. In this painting by Fournier, Farnham’s Mill is to the left of the Stone Arch Bridge. At the far left is the Pillsbury A mill.
Alexis Jean Fournier, Mill Pond at Minneapolis, 1888, oil on canvas, Minneapolis Institute of Arts, The John R. Van Derlip Fund
2. Another of Fournier’s six views of Minneapolis from the summer of 1888 pictures Lowry Hill in Minneapolis.
Alexis Jean Fournier, Lowry Hill, Minneapolis, 1888, oil on canvas, Minneapolis Institute of Arts, The Julia B. Bigelow Fund
3. In a later painting, Fournier depicted the natural beauty of Minnehaha Creek.
Alexis Jean Fournier, After Rain, on Minnehaha Creek, 1897, oil on canvas, Minneapolis Institute of Arts, bequest of Margarette H. Crosby


March 2009