Painter. Mignot was born in Charleston on February 3, 1831, into a French-Catholic family. At the age of seventeen he enrolled at the Academy of Fine Arts at The Hague, where he remained for five years. He became a student of Andreas Schelfhout, a highly regarded Dutch landscape painter. In 1854 he returned to the United States and became actively involved in the New York art world. In the manner of the Hudson River school painters, he went on sketching forays in the Catskill Mountains. He specialized in landscape painting and on several occasions provided the backgrounds to ambitious figure groups, as in Washington and Lafayette at Mount Vernon, a collaboration with Thomas P. Rossiter in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Mignot’s landscapes were exhibited at the prestigious Century Association and the National Academy of Design, where he was elected to the status of associate academician in 1858.
Mignot was one of the first tenants of the Tenth Street Studio Building, the earliest American facility designed specifically for artists. One of his fellow tenants was Frederic Edwin Church, a leading exponent of the second generation of Hudson River school painters. In 1857 Church and Mignot made an expedition to Central and South America, traveling to Guayaquil and Quito, Ecuador; trekking along the “Avenue of Volcanoes”; and taking in such Andean landmarks as Cotopaxi, Cayambe, and Chimborazo. From sketches obtained on this expedition Mignot developed some of his most acclaimed canvases.
On January 11, 1860, Mignot married Zairah Harries of Baltimore. The couple had one son. During the Civil War, Mignot remained in New York until 1862, when he departed for England.
Because his career was relatively short and his works scattered, Mignot has suffered from comparison to his better-known friend Church. While the scholar Katherine Manthorne maintains that “Mignot was arguably the most accomplished southern-born painter of his generation,” she also recognizes a fundamental dilemma, namely, “the degree to which he should be classified as a southern artist.” Mignot never seems to have painted scenes of his native region. However, during his lifetime critics saluted Mignot’s singular ability at rendering humid atmosphere, which they viewed as a direct result of his youth in South Carolina. This was the judgment of the noted art connoisseur Henry Tuckerman, who wrote in 1867, “Quite diverse from the exactitude and vivid forest tints of our Eastern painters, are the southern effects so remarkably rendered by Louis R. Mignot, whose nativity, temperament, and taste combine to make him the efficient delineator of tropical atmosphere and vegetation.”
Major paintings by Mignot are in the collections of Greenville County Museum of Art, North Carolina Museum of Art, Detroit Institute of Arts, Brooklyn Museum of Art, and Bowdoin College Museum of Art. On September 22, 1870, Mignot died of smallpox in Brighton, England, and was buried at Brighton Cemetery, Woodvale.
Manthorne, Katherine E., and John W. Coffey. The Landscapes of Louis Rémy Mignot: A Southern Painter Abroad. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1996.