Oil on board, 17.5 x 23.5 inches / Signed lower left
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Messer was born in in Skowhegan, Maine and as a boy moved with his family to Minnesota. During the Civil War he served with the Minnesota First Infantry before being discharged for health reasons in 1862. His art training began in 1863 after moving to Washington, D.C., where he studied with noted D.C. portraitist and still-life painter, Peter Baumgras. Between 1863 and 1870 Messer traveled widely and received additional instruction at noted American art institutions--Copper Institute, Cummings Academy and the National Academy of Design (New York City), the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Academy of Design (Chicago). He made his first of two trips to Europe during this time, studying in Paris under French academic painters Raphael Collin and Gustave Courtois; his second trip occurred in 1885. Messer became one of the most active, accomplished, respected painters and teachers of his time. He had opened an art school on Vernon Row early on and went onto to found the Washington Art Club at which he was an instructor (1879-1885). He later helped organize the Arts Students League of Washington and was an instructor there (1886–1902). After the demise of this latter organization in 1902, Messer became principal of the Corcoran School of Art, a position he held until 1918. He served as president of the Society of Washington Artists and vice president of the Washington Water Color Club, where he also exhibited. Messer served as treasurer of the Washington Fine Arts Union, was a member of the Cosmos Club and the Washington Society of Fine Arts. He also exhibited at the Corcoran Gallery of Art (Washington, D.C.), National academy of Design and Art Institute (Chicago), and the 1910 Appalachian Exposition (Knoxville, TN).