From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Vedder grew up on his grandfather's farm at Schenectady, New York. He trained in New York City with Tompkins H. Matteson, then in Paris with François-Édouard Picot. Finally, he completed his studies in Italy - where he was strongly influenced not only by Italian Renaissance work but also by the modern Macchiaioli painters and the living Italian landscape. He first visited Italy from 1858 until 1860, becoming deeply emotionally attached to fellow painter Giovanni Costa. Their idyllic trips through the Italian countryside were cut short because Vedder's father cut off his financial allowance.
Vedder returned to the USA, penniless, during the American Civil War, and made a small living by undertaking commercial illustrations. He was involved in the bohemian 'Pfaff's' coffee house group, and painted some of his most memorable paintings notable for their visionary nature, romantic imagery and often Oriental influences. Paintings of this time include 'The Roc's Egg', 'The Fisherman and the Genii' and one of his most famous works, Lair of the Sea Serpent. In the USA he sought out and became friends with Walt Whitman, Herman Melville and William Morris Hunt. Vedder became a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1865.
At the end of the Civil War he left America to live in Italy. He married an American student in Italy in 1866. He had a home in Rome and - after the financial success of his 1884 Rubaiyat work - on the Isle of Capri, then a haven for male aesthetes.
Vedder visited England many times, and was influenced by the Pre-Raphaelites, and was a friend of Simeon Solomon. He was also influenced by the work of English and Irish mystics such as William Blake and William Butler Yeats. In 1890 Vedder helped establish the In Arte Libertas group in Italy.
Tiffany commissioned him to design glassware, mosaics and statuettes for the company. He decorated the hallway of the Reading Room of the Washington Library of Congress, and his mural paintings can still be seen there.
He occasionally returned to the USA, but lived only in Italy from 1906.