Sawyier's Inspiration

Historical Marker #675 in Jessamine County commemorates Kentucky artist Paul Sawyier, who was nicknamed "The River Artist."

Sawyier lived in a houseboat on the Kentucky River from the fall of 1908 until 1913. The houseboat served as both his home and studio while he made frequent excursions along the river in a small motorboat.

The Kentucky River served as a backdrop for a number of Sawyier's paintings. While living on the houseboat, he spent a great deal of time painting local landmarks, including High Bridge and Camp Nelson. In fact, his houseboat, or "shanty boat" as local residents called it, was often anchored at High Bridge where much of his painting was done.

Although one might think houseboat living to be somewhat primitive, Sawyier's friends and acquaintances described his appearance during this time as being well-dressed and neat. Apparently, his orderliness carried over to his houseboat studio. A friend once commented that it was "methodical and neat, with everything in the right place."

Sawyier's houseboat living also attracted the local media. Articles featuring Sawyier and his floating home and studio appeared in both the "Lexington Leader" (April 5, 1910) and the "Louisville Courier-Journal" (October 19, 1913). It was in the "Courier-Journal" that the nickname 'The River Artist' was first used.

Today, the Kentucky Historical Society has the world's largest collection of Paul Sawyier paintings.



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