Lifetime: 1856 - 1932 Passed: ≈ 92 years ago




United States

John Charles Van Dyke

John Charles Van Dyke was an American art historian, critic, and nature writer. He was born at New Brunswick, New Jersey, studied at Columbia, and for many years in Europe. He was admitted to the New York State Bar Association in 1877, but never practiced law.

In 1878, Van Dyke was appointed the librarian of the Gardner Sage Library at the New Brunswick Theological Seminary, and in 1891 as a professor of art history at Rutgers College (now Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey). With his appointment, the Rutgers president's residence was converted to classroom and studio space for the college's Department of Fine Arts. He was elected to the National Institute of Arts and Letters in 1908.

Van Dyke wrote a series of critical guide books: New Guides to Old Masters. He edited Modern French Masters Old Dutch and Flemish Masters Old English Masters; and a series of histories covering the history of art in America.

In 1901, Van Dyke published "The Desert" through which Americans "'discovered' the Southwest, its Indians, strange plants, and exotic animals. Discovered, too, the first and still the best book to praise the arid lands. After nearly a century Van Dyke remains the grandfather of almost all American desert writers."

Van Dyke was the son of Judge John Van Dyke, and great grandson of John Honeyman, a spy for George Washington who played a critical role at the battle of Trenton. He was also the uncle of film director W.S. Van Dyke.

Books by John Charles Van Dyke

The Desert, Further Studies in Natural Appearances  Cover image

The Desert, Further Studies in Natural Appearances

Non-Fiction Travel
Nature Geography

The Desert by John Charles Van Dyke, published in 1901, is a lush, poetic description of the natural beauty of the American Southwest. "What land can equal the desert with its wide plains, its grim mountains, and its expanding canopy of sky!" Van Dyk...