F.O.C. Darley Biography

F.O.C. Darley




Illustrator Felix Octavius Carr Darsley, known professionally as F.O.C. Darley, was born in Philadelphia, PA, on June 23, 1822. A self-taught artist, he was born into a family with roots in theater, and before he began drawing he assumed he would become an actor. However, as a teenager the creative Darley began sketching scenes of the docks outside of the Philadelphia Dipatch Transportation Line where he was employed at age fourteen. An article written on Darley in The National Magazine in 1856 states, "Apparently one of his quick sketches of a drunkard attached the notice of Thomas Dunn English, a prominent writer and critic...Darley's caricatures found their was to the editor of the Saturday Museum, Edgar Allan Poe, who expressed a desire to publish them." Darley would soon be known as a pioneering American illustrator, helping to establish the style of burgeoning publishing markets of the mid 19th century, and whose works were often the first that many Americans saw in their periodicals and newspapers.

Darley was hired as a staff illustrator for Graham's Lady's and Gentleman's Magazine, a Philadelphia publication, and soon thereafter wason offered commissions by Harper's Weekly and several publishing houses. Among these offers was a traveling sketch trip to record the lives of American Indians throughout nearby states; this rooted his reputation as a sought-after illustrator in 1843 at age twenty-one. He then moved to New York to be closer the leading hub of opportunity. There, he joine the American Art Union. 

Among his first widely-produced series of works through the Union were illustrations for Washington Irving's the Legend of Sleepy Hollow, utlizing the popular reproduction method of stone lithography, with each impression then hand-colored and offered to the public by sunscription. His work now made it into the homes of the uper-class, and his fame grew. He would go on to create hundreds of illustrations for the works of James Fenimoore Cooper; Charles Dickens; Mary Mapes Dodge; Harriet Beecher Stowe; Henry Wadsworth Longfellow; Nathaniel Hawthorne, and many others. His popularity is often credited as the catalyst for giving illustrators printed credit when their works were published in books and periodicals.

In 1851 he was elected an honorary member of the National Academy of Design, obtaining full Academician status the following year. In total, Darley worked for forty-eight years as a dedicated professional illustrator, no small feat for un untrained artist at the time. He also created a body of watercolors depicting the places he traveled to for leisure, including a series of European landscapes and architectural observations. 

Darley died on March 27, 1888, in his home in Claymont, Delaware. His home was placed on the National Register for Historic Places and is known as the Darley House.