François Mathurin Adalbert, Vicomte de Courcy, (1805-1839) was a French topographical artist and traveler. He undertook a wide-ranging voyage through Canada, the United States, the Caribbean, and Mexico in the early 1830s and documented it in a collection of accomplished drawings and watercolors. His travel in the United States was contemporaneous with that of Alexis de Tocqueville, and his works are a significant visual record of the nation at the same time it was memorialized by his compatriot.
Jacques-Gérad Milbert’s Itineraire Pittoresque du Fleuve Hudson et ses Parties Laterales de l'Amerique du Nord (Paris, 1828-1829) could well have played some role in enticing de Courcy to the United States; the volume was the first serious treatment of the American landscape in France, and it was published in Paris shortly before he left for North America.
De Courcy’s journey began in New York City, from which he headed up the Hudson River, then followed the Mohawk River to the Erie Canal, Buffalo, and Lake Erie. He spent some time at Niagara Falls, evinced by the numerous watercolors of that subject in the collection, before making his way through Lake Ontario to Montreal and Quebec. After his stay in Canada, de Courcy traveled down through Lake Champlain and Lake George, arriving again at New York. From there he traveled to Baltimore, Washington DC, and Virginia. He then took the overland route to Pittsburgh and traveled down the Ohio River to the Mississippi. He made a number of drawings along the southern Mississippi before arriving at New Orleans. In the South he made stops in Alabama and Georgia, including at Savannah, and also in South Carolina at Charleston. Thereafter he went to the Caribbean, making stops in Puerto Rico and Cuba, before continuing to Mexico.
In Mexico, de Courcy was accompanied by the German artist Johann Moritz Rugendas, and two small portraits of de Courcy by Rugendas are preserved in the Staatliche Graphische Sammlung in Munich. Rugendas was in contact with Alexander von Humboldt, and de Courcy and Rugendas’ travel in Mexico was likely informed by the Prussian explorer.
Beyond his time in America, we have found but little biographical information on de Courcy: He was a member of the Roussel de Courcy family and in 1833, after his return, married Zoé Henriette Alexandrine de Biencourt, Comtesse de Néverlée, with whom he had two children. He died in Paris just a few years later, in 1839, at the age of 33.