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Title: The Mentor: American Landscape Painters, Vol. 1, Num. 26, Serial No. 26
Author: Isham, Samuel
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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The Mentor, No. 26, American Landscape Painters


“A Wise and Faithful Guide and Friend”

    Vol. 1      No. 26




    A. H. WYANT


    D. W. TRYON

    F. E. CHURCH

[Illustration: American Art Annual]


The beginnings of art in America were confined almost exclusively to
portrait painting. In the earliest colonial times unskilled limners
came from the mother country and made grotesque effigies of our
statesmen and divines. As the settlements developed and the amenities
of life increased better men came, and native painters were found,
until about the end of the eighteenth century a portrait school of
surprising merit arose, founded on the contemporary English school, and
developed men like Copley, Stuart, and Sully. The other branches of
painting, however,--history, allegory, genre, still life, landscape,
and the rest,--were rarely attempted, and usually with unsatisfactory

Probably no artist devoted himself entirely to landscape until 1820,
when Thomas Doughty, who was already twenty-seven years old, gave up
his leather trade and took to painting American views in delicate gray
and violet tones, with small encouragement from his contemporaries.


[Illustration: Metropolitan Museum of Art


Soon after came Thomas Cole, the real founder of the school, who
emigrated to America with his father’s family when he was nineteen. He
was a sensitive, delicate youth, who suffered much in his wanderings
while trying to support himself, at first by his trade of wood
engraving, but most of all after the chance meeting with an itinerant
portrait painter led him to take up art. It was not until he came to
New York in 1825 that his merits were recognized and his difficulties
ceased. Some small canvases that he exhibited were quickly bought, and
from this time until his death his popularity steadily increased. The
quality of Cole’s work owes much to his own character, and perhaps also
to his early English bringing up. He was an idealist rather than a
realist. He cared less to reproduce the beauties of the nature around
him than to awaken high, moral thoughts. It was not for the pleasure
of the eye, but to suggest profitable musings on the grandeur and
decline of nations, the transitoriness of life, the rewards of virtue
after death, that he painted the “Course of Empire,” the “Voyage of
Life,” and the rest. He was the founder of a romantic school, which
may be traced even down to the present day. The succeeding artists did
not indeed paint allegories; but they put the main interest of their
pictures in the strangeness or beauty of their subject, rather than in
rendering ordinary scenes with personal feeling.


[Illustration: Metropolitan Museum of Art


The best known of these followers was F. E. Church, who was a pupil of
Cole--and the only pupil that he could properly be said to have had;
for Church lived and studied in his house for years. While he showed
no desire to imitate the mystic subjects of his master, Church cared
little for the common world immediately around him. He seems to have
thought that the nobler the subject the nobler the picture, and he
ransacked the whole earth for its beautiful, strange, or impressive
scenes. The luxurious vegetation of the tropics, the isles of the Ægean
Sea, the Parthenon, icebergs, volcanos,--he painted them all, set off
by sunset, clouds, thunderstorms, rainbows, or whatever else would
enhance their beauty, and he painted them well. He was the best artist
of his school; much better than Cole, whose careful studies of real
scenes are often well done, but whose workmanship degenerated rapidly
when, leaving nature, he entered into the realm of pure imagination.

The succeeding men who took Church’s viewpoint and sought subjects for
their exceptional beauty or majesty had an additional impulse given
to their imagination by the discovery of such subjects in their own
country. Church painted no important picture of his own land; but when
exploring parties began to enter the great West they were accompanied
by artists eager to set down marvels no less striking than those of the
tropics or of Europe.


[Illustration: Metropolitan Museum of Art


[Illustration: ALBERT BIERSTADT]

The foremost of these artists was Albert Bierstadt, who gave to the
public its first impressions of the vastness of the Rockies and all
their strange fauna, the buffalo, the big trees, and the rest. The
public, both educated and uneducated, enjoyed and admired the pictures
which offered it a new impression of the grandeur of its country and
flattered the somewhat uncouth but real pride of the time.

Other men besides Bierstadt accompanied the explorers of the
West,--Whittredge, Wyant, Samuel Colman, and others,--but though they
painted the plains and the Rockies they soon deserted them for other
subjects. One man, however, now a veteran of his profession, has
remained faithful to his early ideals.



[Illustration: THOMAS MORAN]

Thomas Moran, who was one of three brothers, all distinguished in
art, came with them to this country from England in 1844, when he was
seven years old. He continues to our day the traditions of Church; not
directly, for his training came from an entirely different source,
but by his natural preference for Nature in her more striking and
impressive forms. A trip to the Yellowstone as early as 1871 furnished
him with a series of subjects peculiarly his own; but, while he has
always found matter for his brush in the marvels of the great West, he
has added to them many of the most beautiful scenes of Great Britain,
Switzerland, Venice, and the Orient, rendering them all with a sure
facility and brilliance that make his canvases recognizable at a glance.

In contrast to these men, who sought to give interest and dignity to
their work by choosing imaginative or strange, far-sought subjects,
may be placed those whose interest was rather in the familiar native
landscape that lay about them, who found in it beauty sufficient for
their needs if only they could fully express the emotions with which it
inspired them. The two schools are anything but rigidly separated. The
idealists made careful studies from nature, and the realists attempted
excursions into allegory or scenic beauty; but the fundamental
difference of the point of view is sufficiently marked.

The two founders of our landscape schools are typical examples of
the two temperaments. Thomas Cole, born abroad, with much of the
sentimentality of Europe of that time, was a dreamer, sensitive, shy,
living in his visions.


[Illustration: ASHER B. DURAND]

Asher B. Durand, on the contrary, was of sturdy Huguenot stock, one
of the many children of a farmer who cultivated his land on Orange
Mountain, but whose ingenuity made him also a watchmaker, silversmith,
and skilled mechanic generally. His son, after some boyish efforts at
engraving, was apprenticed to that trade, and rapidly became by far
the best engraver in the country, both prosperous and skilful. His
masterpiece is the “Declaration of Independence,” which holds its own
today as a most creditable production. He was still an engraver when
Cole came to New York, and was one of the first to encourage him and
buy his pictures. At this time Durand, though an older man by some five
years than Cole, had not yet begun to paint. When he did some ten years
later, in 1835, his first productions were portrait heads admirable in
their delicate draftsmanship and sure, fine characterization; but he
soon abandoned these for landscape, and for the latter part of his long
life devoted himself entirely to it.


Durand’s landscapes, like his portraits, showed his training as an
engraver in their accurate and minute drawing. Contrary to the general
practice of the time, he painted many of his large canvases out
of doors in face of nature. His love for nature, combined with his
training as an engraver, probably accounts for his almost invariable
choice of full midsummer daylight for his pictures, when vegetation
was at its fullest and all its details could be minutely seen. Yet,
for all his love of detail, he does not lose unity, and the color is
true to the soft, warm haze of summer, and the shadows keep their local

[Illustration: Metropolitan Museum of Art



Durand’s landscapes were popular, and there grew up about him a school
of painters treating nature much as he did. They loved the country that
they visited in their summer excursions, and like him they painted Lake
George, the White Mountains, the Hudson, and so there grew up what
has been called the Hudson River School. Durand was old when he began
painting, and his followers were of a younger generation. Kensett was
probably the best of them. He worked less from nature than Durand; his
detail has none of Durand’s tranquil thoroughness, and his shadows
are apt to be rendered by a facile generalization of brown. However,
he made a decided advance over the older master in representing all
aspects of nature, all seasons and all times of day, with a special
leaning toward sunsets.

[Illustration: A. H. WYANT]

Of the others of the school there is space to recall only a few names
at random,--Whittredge, McEntee, Bristol, Sandford R. Gifford, Cropsey,
and the rest. They were mostly sincere, hard-working painters, and
very charming, worthy men personally. They won for themselves a social
position in the old New York of the ’60’s and ’70’s greater and more
important than any other artistic group has enjoyed in this country.
Their paintings were also admired and bought for handsome prices, and
as a whole they were prosperous. Time has dealt rather hardly with
their fame. Though all of the men whose names have just been cited
left works that may still be seen with pleasure, yet as a rule the
pictures of the school were thin, laborious, and timid. There was
no rich, strong handling of the pigment, no decorative quality to
the composition, no massing of light and shade, and no revelation of
individual temperament and emotion.


Approaches to these qualities were occasionally made; but to find them
the general rule we must go to the men who are now conceded to be the
culminating masters of the school,--Wyant, Homer Martin, and Inness.

[Illustration: HOMER D. MARTIN]

Of these Wyant holds closest to the traditions of the school. He had a
larger sense of composition, a completer mastery of technic, a freer
handling, and a finer draftsmanship. He represented with infinite
refinement the heaped up summer clouds and the smooth, delicate tree
trunk beyond which the widespread landscape was seen; but on the whole
it was only a culmination of the qualities of the school and awoke no
opposition. With Martin and Inness it was different. They succeeded
in giving to their landscapes a deeper note of personal emotion and
feeling than any of their predecessors. Both were men of exceptional
spiritual and mental endowment. Their characters were formed not in a
conventional model imposed by their surroundings, but by much solitary
meditation. Both had begun by painting in the general style of the
Hudson River School, and both found the result unsatisfactory.

Martin’s desertion of the old traditions consisted largely in a change
of workmanship. Instead of the thin, smooth coating of pigment general
at the time, which he himself had practised in the beginning, he used
a thick impasto, laid on with a heavily loaded brush or even the
palette knife. The color, too, was not used in unbroken tones, but
drawn and blended together in streaks and spots, which gave it quiver
and vitality. Apart from the method of painting, the manner changed
also. Detail, so admired by the public of the day, was more and more
simplified. The composition resolved itself into a few strong masses
of light and dark, the relations between which became more and more
balanced and subtle as the little incidents disappeared. His pictures
in this latter manner are not very numerous, for he could not paint
when he was not in the mood; but the best of them make a profound
impression by their strong simplicity.



[Illustration: GEORGE INNESS]

Inness was a much more prolific painter, and his work shows greater
variety. He early felt the monotony of the old school, its lack of
certain qualities that he found in engravings of European landscapes,
and he used to take the prints with him when he went sketching, to
try to discover wherein their merit consisted. He studied nature
continually, living with it, so that at last he knew its moods and
methods by heart. Toward the end of his life he painted much from
memory. A landscape painting, perhaps originally sketched from nature,
would change under his brush much as the scene itself might under
changing lights or varying seasons. The sky filled with clouds, then
cleared again, the sunlight spotted the grass or the shadows stretched
across it, while the trees turned from the green of summer to the
russet of autumn. Naturally work of this later period, much of it left
unfinished, is very unequal in merit; but at its best it marks his
highest achievement rather than the more carefully planned productions
of his middle life. It is more vital and more subtle; but all of
Inness’s work except his very earliest reflects the inner nature of
the man. It has none of the dignified melancholy of Martin, which has
also at times its note of revolt. Inness is never trivial: he keeps his
seriousness; but he is never sad. Nature is to him always beautiful,
always kindly.

[Illustration: Metropolitan Museum of Art


[Illustration: American Art Annual


With Wyant, Martin, and Inness our early landscape school reached its
culmination. Their lives all continued after the end of the Civil
War, they even did their best work after it; but they belonged to a
school formed in other surroundings. After the war conditions changed.
The country was less isolated, intercourse was easier, wealth had
increased, and foreign paintings, calculated to show the deficiencies
of native work, became increasingly common. The budding artists were no
longer willing to pick up their art by their own exertions, aided by
occasional counsel from their elders or such inadequate schools as the
country then furnished, but departed in ever increasing numbers to the
famous schools of Europe.

The difference was not that the earlier painters had ignored Europe.
They traveled to see the masterpieces of art and the beauties of
nature in foreign countries; but they were on the whole contented with
their work and proud of their native school. The younger men absorbed
enthusiasm for foreign workmanship, and adopted foreign standards.


D. W. Tryon is an example of this new spirit at its best. His
sentiment, if not so deep and strong as Inness at his best, is yet more
delicate and subtle. That is due to a difference of temperament; but
the way in which the picture is developed is a matter of training. With
Inness the first thing was to express somehow his feeling, and then the
canvas was worked over until it was got into construction; with Tryon
the draftsmanship was fundamental and indispensable, and the sentiment
was built upon that. One may say of our recent landscapes that they
show a construction gained from the study of the nude and a handling
adapted from the best foreign models. This education has greatly raised
the average of our art; but a few men of the older time had strength
and feeling to work out a training for themselves more personal and
perhaps as permanent as that of the later day. Time tests all things,
and its verdict cannot be foreseen; but it is doubtful if it will place
any of our modern landscape artists before Martin or Inness. Among
these modern landscape painters are men of such talent as H. W. Ranger,
Bruce Crane, and J. Francis Murphy, without mention of whom no article
on American landscape painters would be complete.

[Illustration: H. W. RANGER]

[Illustration: BRUCE CRANE]

[Illustration: J. FRANCIS MURPHY]



    American Painters                      _George W. Sheldon_
    Art in America                         _S. G. W. Benjamin_
    American Masters of Painting           _C. H. Caffin_
    The Story of American Painting         _C. H. Caffin_
    A History of American Painting         _Samuel Isham_
    A History of American Art              _K. S. Hartman_
    Book of the Artists                    _Henry T. Tuckerman_
    Life and Times of Asher B. Durand      _John Durand_
    Homer Martin                           _Frank Jewett Mather_
    George Inness                          _Elliott Daingerfield_
    George Inness: A Memorial              _Alfred Trumble_
    Homer Martin: A Reminiscence



Subscribers desiring further information concerning this subject can
obtain it by writing to

_The Mentor Association_

_381 Fourth Avenue, New York City_


Metropolitan Museum of Art]


_George Inness_


George Inness is said to have painted more good pictures than anyone
else ever painted. At any rate, he painted more than he himself could
remember. A landscape supposed to be Inness’s was brought by the man
who owned it to the artist’s studio, with a request to know if it was
genuine. Inness looked at the painting carefully for a long time.
“Leave it, leave it,” he finally said. “Perhaps I shall recall it.”

Inness spent the greater part of a long career in the neighborhood of
New York. He began studying at the age of fourteen. He received very
little instruction; but for the most part found out through his own
hard work and drudgery all that a painter must know about drawing,
colors, and the mechanical side of art. Then, during a few years in
Italy, the glorious landscapes, the historic traditions, the art of
old masters, all combined to develop in the artist, who was then but a
young man, that quality of imagination which was needed to make him a

Yet neither his knowledge of art nor his imagination could have placed
him foremost among painters of American landscape had it not been for
the energy that was above all characteristic of his nature. Inness
would often work fifteen hours at a stretch. Friends wondered at his
endurance, and even more at the speed with which he painted. He saw one
day two pictures by Rousseau, the famous French artist, and remarked to
a friend, “I could paint two of those a day.” Next day, to prove his
point, Inness painted two canvases in the French style, and later sold
them both to one man.

An incident that happened at Montclair, New Jersey, shows how little he
valued his own finished work. When out walking one day he was overtaken
by a thunderstorm, and was so impressed with its fury and grandeur
that he rushed home to paint it while the memory was still fresh.
Arrived at the house, and unable to find a canvas large enough for his
idea, he took down a ten-foot picture of Mount Washington which he had
painted years before. In two hours the mountain scene was replaced by
a striking representation of the storm just over. That picture, with
the outline of Mount Washington still traceable by ridges of paint, now
hangs in the museum at St. Louis.

Men of great energy often wear themselves out early in life; yet George
Inness kept on painting to a good ripe age. At sixty-nine he died in
Scotland, where he had gone for his health.



Metropolitan Museum of Art]


_Homer Martin_


Of all our great artists the most unsuccessful financially was Homer
Dodge Martin. His work was not popular; he never won any prizes; and
indeed he was long forced to depend for a living on the assistance of
his wife. Like many other early American artists, he was self-taught.
His father, a carpenter in Albany, New York, was not easily persuaded
to let the boy follow up a natural talent for painting. Martin first
tried carpentering, shopkeeping, and architecture. In each case his
desire to draw pictures was too strong for him,--boards, paper, blank
walls, were decorated with landscapes,--until his employers found it
necessary to discharge the young artist. At last a sculptor of the time
pleaded for him, and Homer was permitted to paint.

Martin insisted on doing everything in his own way, and he did not get
far at first. His admirers can find hardly more than an occasional
hint in these crude early works of the great skill that this artist
afterward acquired. Nevertheless, the wealthier people of Albany, who
were proud of their artist, bought a number of Martin’s canvases.

It was not until he moved to New York in 1862 that this queer genius
had a really hard struggle to live. His habits were irregular, he
dressed badly, and generally made a poor impression. The great Whistler
said, introducing him, “Gentlemen, this is Homer Martin. He doesn’t
look as if he were; but he is!” Revolutionary ideas and a keen, cutting
humor made him as many enemies as friends.

Strangely enough, he chose quiet, calm landscapes to paint. He was
attracted to the Catskills, Adirondacks, and White Mountains, and in
Europe preferred tranquil scenes along the upper Thames and in Normandy.

Homer Martin seldom painted direct from nature; but would sketch in
his notebook and jot down color memoranda. Less surprising, therefore,
than it would seem at first is the painting of two famous pictures in
1895, when he was all but blind. “The Adirondacks” and the “View on the
Seine” rank with his best work. Two years later he died.

Martin was not appreciated during his lifetime. The few pictures that
he did manage to sell were purchased by his friends. Today few of his
important pictures can be bought at any price.


[Illustration: AN OLD CLEARING By A. H. WYANT

Metropolitan Museum of Art]


_A. H. Wyant_


Many a great artist has begun life in some distasteful branch of trade.
Wyant worked for a harness maker. He was born and brought up at Port
Washington, Ohio, and though he is said to have sketched flowers and
leaves on the kitchen floor during his childhood, and later to have
used his spare time in sign painting, he had no real opportunity either
of showing his own talent or of seeing pictures by other artists until
he was nearly twenty.

A visit to Cincinnati, where he saw the work of George Inness, may be
considered the beginning of Wyant’s artistic career. From that time on,
his one ambition in life was to be a great painter. He set out for New
York City as soon as he could get money enough together, found Inness,
and received from the master painter both help and encouragement.
Inness saw great possibilities in this Ohio boy.

On his return Wyant made studies of the Ohio Valley, where no artist of
any account had ever painted. He threw into his work all the energy and
enthusiasm of which his poetic genius was capable.

The year 1865 brought the opportunity to which Wyant had long looked.
He was able to go abroad, and study there for awhile in Karlsruhe and
London. But the result was somewhat disappointing; for he failed to get
the inspiration he expected from contact with European painters.

Another disappointment was in store for him when he undertook, like
Moran, to explore the West. Indeed, it was more than a disappointment.
He was treated so brutally by the leader of the expedition that on
returning he suffered a stroke of paralysis. Although he never entirely
recovered, Wyant would not give up the old determination to be a great
artist. His right hand useless, the invincible painter learned to use
his left, and with it did more perfect work than he had ever done with
the other.

It is a fact which cannot be too much regretted that Wyant reached the
end of his life before his genius could be perfected. He himself knew
that it would be so. “Had I but five years more in which to paint,” he
said, “I think I could do the thing I long to.” In the mystic coloring
of his Adirondack scenes we catch glimpses of the thing he longed to




_Thomas Moran_


Though a true American, taking great pride in his chosen country and
her art, Moran is English by birth. When he was but seven years old the
boy’s parents settled in Philadelphia, where he received his education.
That he should soon show remarkable talent was not at all surprising,
as the family he belongs to has produced nine distinguished artists.

Thomas Moran was apprenticed to a wood engraver, whose art he mastered
before starting to work in color. Engraving has in fact occupied a
considerable part of his life ever since, and his etchings are among
the best that have been done in America. He has also great skill in
water color; though he is best known for his oil paintings.

Success came easily and quickly. Moran went with a government exploring
expedition to the West, where he wished to sketch the unknown Rockies.
A poetic imagination, coupled with an eye trained to note and remember
the smallest details, could not fail to being home valuable material.
The artist’s enthusiasm was aroused by that bigness in the scenes
before him which now brings tourists from all parts of the world. The
magnificent coloring of rock and mountainside, forest and canyon and
swift river, was faithfully observed, to be rendered in the most famous
of Moran’s paintings.

The United States government chose two of his pictures, “The Grand
Canyon of the Yellowstone” and “The Grand Chasm of the Colorado,” to
adorn the walls of the national Capitol. The artist received for them
$10,000 apiece.

Moran must be considered one of our self-taught painters; for, except
during his first visits to Europe, he received very little instruction.
He is an American painter of American landscapes. Yet he has also made
several excellent paintings of the sea. He likes best to paint the sea
with mountains near at hand in the picture.

He has made several prolonged stays in Europe; but is most fond of his
home at East Hampton, Long Island.


[Illustration: TWILIGHT--AUTUMN By D. W. TRYON

Copyright by N. E. Montross]


_Dwight William Tryon_


The world stands ready to admire a painter whose trees bend beneath
the gale, their tops all but whipping the torn, gray, low-driving
clouds, and whose lightning and rain and frightened animals aid the
dramatic impression of violent storm. Yet the world often forgets the
sort of skill that can show a light wind barely swaying the straight,
stark woods of March, or can bring home to everyone the chill and the
melancholy of oncoming frost in an autumn evening. When trees toss
we know that the wind is up. Running cattle suggest thunder. But in
“Twilight--Autumn” there is nothing to tell us why we seem to hear the
far-off moaning of the November wind. Tryon makes one feel the spirit
of scene and season.

At the age of twenty-five Dwight William Tryon first set up his
studio. Before this he had been a clerk in a bookstore at Hartford,
Connecticut. At seven he began studying at the École des Beaux Arts
under Daubigny and De la Chevreuse. Two of his pictures were exhibited
at the Paris Salon. Since then he has won prizes everywhere--a gold
medal of the first class at Munich in 1891; thirteen medals at the
Chicago exhibition, 1893; and many more. He is a member of the National

Some of the best of Tryon’s earlier work is included in a series of
landscapes and marines which he painted for the hall of a collector in
Detroit. One of his series, “Dawn--Early Spring,” is remarkable for
its simplicity. The foreground is a low, marshy field, back of which
an almost uniform line of trees runs the whole width of the horizon.
Yet this painting, with all its simplicity, is so full of imagination
that a beholder feels the dawn and the bleakness of March sinking
irresistibly into his mind. It is Tryon’s method to conceal his art,
and make us feel the emotion in a picture without knowing why we feel

All his paintings have the same subtle simplicity. Among the best known
are his “Winter” and “A Scene at New Bedford.”



Metropolitan Museum of Art]


_Frederick Edwin Church_


Many people like to find something unusual or striking in a picture. To
these the paintings of Frederick Edwin Church make a special appeal.
The range of Church’s art is wide, and covers subjects chosen from
many parts of the world. Before cameras were invented nobody could
tell, unless he went there himself, just what a tropical forest looked
like. Therefore, when Church wanted to paint something mysterious and
wonderful he traveled to South America, among the mountains and through
jungles of which few people in northern countries had any idea. It was
not strange that critics should praise the landscapes he painted on his
return,--scenes by moonlight across a luxuriant growth of palms and
creepers, or high mountain peaks with animals of the tropics lurking
about the foreground. So enthusiastically were his canvases received,
both at home and abroad, that the young artist soon revisited those
regions, and made further studies, which met with equal success. The
greatest of his South American works is “The Heart of the Andes.”

Feeling at length that he had learned enough of one country, and
desiring a wider field for his genius, Church turned northward.
“Niagara Falls from the Canadian Shore” is a picture known to
everyone. A journey to Labrador gave him new opportunities, quite
the opposite of what he had experienced in the tropics. We have the
result in “Icebergs,” one of his best canvases. For him nothing was too
difficult. Soon afterward Church left America, made southern Europe
his study, and went on from there into Palestine. “The Parthenon,” a
picture showing that magnificent temple in the middle distance, with
no other object prominent enough to lessen the majesty of its ancient
ruined architecture, is the most famous record of this European period
in the artist’s life.

Church painted on very large canvases, and was painstaking to the
smallest detail. A pioneer in the landscape art of America, he had all
the directness and bigness of the pioneer. “The Heart of the Andes” and
the “Niagara” give him a permanent place in the history of American


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ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.