Travelling Experience of Ambrose McCarthy Petterson –The Man behind the Arts Revolution in Seattle

If the history of arts in the city of Seattle is to be discussed, AmbroseMcCarthy Petterson is one of the most prominent names that come to mind. McCarthy, a man who is known as one of the founding fathers of Seattle arts, was born in the year 1877 to a British father and an Irish mother who had immigrated to Australia. Ambrose was one of the thirteen children of Mr. and Mrs.Petterson. Their mother in the early stages of their lives encouraged the sons to learn the pianoand painting. Ambrose later in his own words would say that he could not say how much of an impression his mother made on his choice to pursue arts.


At age 17, the young Ambrose became more interested in the arts and began a more serious training as an apprentice in 1894 with the Peterson Bros and Decorators in Melbourne, which lasted for one year and was immediately followed by his enrollment into the National Gallery School. His stay at the National Gallery School was short-lived after which he started attending lectures with attending trainings at the Melbourne School of Arts, which was regarded by many people to be the only arts school that rivaled other European schools in terms of quality. Here, he attended courses taught by the European trained naturalist E Phillip Fox and Tudor St George Tucker.


No school in Australia at that time could compare to the lure of the European schools, which saw many people from the around the world moving to Europe for international studies. For this reason, Ambrose, on the occasion of his twenty-first birthday, moved to Paris in 1898 with a fund from his family inheritance. He enrolled at the Julian Academy with the advice of his friend, but Ambrose was less than impressed with the learning environment there. He said in his own words and I quote, “I had heard so much about the Julian that I thought I had better be on the safe side and paid my fee for six months in advance trusting to make sure of setting a place. I did not realize that Julian was a factory when you go there and you have to buy drinks for everybody and sing a song for the crowd. I had been there three weeks and realized that it was more like a music hall than a school of painting. Everyone veiled and sang till theprofessors came in, cleared out of it and sought for tuitionelsewhere. Ilost my money, but that was not so valuable as the time I would have lost by staying there.”

After he dropped out from the school, he enrolled in Whistler’s school, which was opened earlier by the American born, British-based James McNeil Whistler. Even with all the prospects there, he became disillusioned in Paris and began searching for many opportunities in Montreal, Canada and then in New York, where he worked as a newspaper illustrator, which was merely for his sustenance. He was sent back to Paris by IN1901 Nella Melba, who gave him $500 and the instruction to “stay in Paris and I will see you through.”There he took up a studio and began classes on the academia collorosi and academia delacluze.

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