Henry Varnum Poor Biography

Henry Varnum Poor




Born in Chapman, Kansas, on September 30, 1887, artist and architect Henry Varnum Poor and was named after his grand-uncle who was founder of what is now the Standard & Poor's credit rating agency. He attended Stanford University in California for four years and graduated in 1906, having enrolled earlier for a year to study economics but took time out and re-entered to study art. With no financial support from his family, who disdained artists, he graduated from Stanford - Phi Beta Kappa, and then went to the Slade School in London and Academie Julian in Paris, and studied with Whistler student and assistant and avant-garde painter-printmaker Walter Sickert at the Westminster School of Art.

From 1911 to 1918, he taught at Stanford and then moved to San Francisco where he taught at the new San Francisco Art Association. He served in World War I as an artist and interpreter. After the war he moved to Rockland County, New York, near New York City. From 1920 to 1929, he distinguished himself in New York as a ceramist of decorative figures. Poor married three times, the last in 1925 to journalist Bessie Breuer, who was with him the rest of his life. They spent 1929 in France where Bessie wrote her novel "Memory of Love" which was adapted to a film titled "In Name Only". Poor returned to painting, exhibiting at the Rehn Gallery. At this time he was also gaining attention for his creative ceramic work. He also became an excellent muralist in true fresco technique. His murals are in the U.S. Departments of Justice and Interior. He was named by FDR as the artist-member of the Commission on Fine Arts as well as being named the head of the War Art Unit, where he went to Alaska to work with the eskimos.

H.V. Poor was also a noted architect, designing his own house, Crow House, as well as designing homes for friends, including Burgess Meredith, Milton Caniff, John Houseman, and Maxwell Anderson. He was a founder of the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, and also taught at Columbia University and in Maine; his work is represented in many museums, including the Whitney and Metropolitan museums. Poor writings include, Artists See Alaska (1945), and A Book of Pottery (1958).

Henry Varnum Poor died at Crow House on December 8, 1970.