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 William Frederick Paskell  (1866 - 1951)

About: William Frederick Paskell
 

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Lived/Active: Massachusetts      Known for: landscape, marine painting

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William Frederick Paskell
from Auction House Records.
Fall mountain landscape
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
William F. Paskell was born in London and moved to Boston in 1872 as a youngster with his family. By the age of twenty-one he was already mentioned in the press as a very promising artist, with his paintings hanging beside the work of Childe Hassam and John J. Enneking in the annual Boston Art Club exhibitions.

Paskell married in 1900 and by 1905. he had four children. In order to provide for his family, Paskell pushed his paintings on the market faster than the market could absorb them and thus depressed the prices of his own works. However, after years of neglect Paskell's paintings are gradually earning more respect.

Paskell started painting a fairly tight style of Impressionism and gradually reached a loose Impressionistic style before World War I. He told one of his grandchildren that to be best appreciated, his large landscape paintings had to be seen at twenty-five feet or more. Paskell painted up to the day of his death, dying in Boston in 1951 at the age of eighty-five, in humble circumstances. He is considered one of the last "White Mountain School of Painters" with a connection to the 19th century. He painted both with watercolors and oils.

His paintings exhibited at the Boston Art Club include CHOCORUA MOUNTAIN -- TAMWORTH, N.H.; THE BRIDGE AT WONALACET, N.H.; and THE SUMMIT OF MT. CHOCORUA.

Source:
Charles Vogel
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Note from Peter Kostoulakos, ISA Fine Art Consultant, Lowell, Massachusetts

William Paskell is connected to the name T. Bailey, the pseudonym of several artists associated with the Massachusetts communities around Rockport,and who painted for the tourist trade during the early to mid-20th century. After 1910 a large number of marine paintings by unknown artist "T. Bailey" flooded the market all sold by dealer Morris Hambro. William Frederick Paskell (1866-1951) has been suggested as being one of the painters of "T. Bailey's works. Davenport's Art Reference listing: Bailey, T. (William Paskell) 1866-1961 American.

References: Davenport's Art Reference 2001/2002; Whistler House Museum of Art Files.
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"My son was born with a pencil in his hand." Thus spoke William F. Paskell's mother, many times and with great pride. He was born in London in 1866. In 1872 the family came to Boston and settled in the Mission Hill area of Roxbury. Paskell's father, William E., came from a long line of cabinet-makers, framers, gilders, and artists. It is no surprise that he promptly found a job on Bromfield Street in the art district, making picture frames for all the local artists.

By the time young William reached high school, he had been sketching prolifically all along the Jamaicaway. He took public streetcars to the end of the line and sketched the suburbs where he yearned to live. His father deemed him ready to help in the frame shop after school. The budding artist was all too glad to help. Sure enough, his first job was to deliver finished frames to the artists who had studios in the neighborhood. Paskell's favorite artist was Benjamin Champney. He admired his work and he loved visiting him, but he privately thought that he was too "old fashioned." Paskell thought that 19th century oils were drawings filled with paint. He believed he should paint directly on the canvas without drawing first. He was however intrigued by the subject matter of Champney's landscapes, the White Mountains that "Old Ben" (age 65) highly recommended.

Paskell's father hung the boy's pencil drawings in the frame shop. They readily sold (unframed) for about 50 cents apiece. Some of them were minor masterpieces, especially for a boy age 14. William then knew that his chosen profession had arrived. He was in love with landscape painting. It must have been in his genes.

By the time he graduated high school, he had taken oil painting lessons with a Boston painter, Francois de Blois, then age 50, who had taken a liking to him. The lessons were expensive, 50 cents an hour, but Paskell sold enough drawing and paintings to pay for his tuition. Deblois was an accomplished artist, a recognized member of the Boston Art Club whose style was halfway between tight realism and loose impressionism. While Deblois was his major teacher, he did take some lessons with a variety of painters who happened into his father's shop. Charles Sanderson gave him some lessons in watercolors. Thomaso Juglaris also provided some guidance, although he is reported to have said that he did not think he could teach the young man very much.

In 1884, at the tender age of 17, the jury of the Boston Art Club accepted his paintings. The following year the Boston Museum of Fine Arts exhibited one of his works. His youthful talent attracted publicity in the press. One reviewer called him the "boy genius of Boston Art."

At one of the exhibitions John J. Enneking, one of Boston's great impressionist painters, came up to him and offered to critique his paintings. Paskell was thrilled to think that he deserved attention from what he called the "Old Master of Boston." He had been submitting sunset scenes to the art world. He must have suspected what Enneking was going to advise. He wrote in his diary, "I am going to visit the old man, but I am not going to change." Sure enough, Enneking suggested that he paint lighter and brighter pictures. Paskell had been painting gorgeous, dramatic sunsets because they suggested surcease from one's labors at the end of a hard-working day. They suggested a yearning for peace instead of turmoil. Paskell thought that other people felt this way too and would buy such paintings. They did indeed. Painting sunsets must have been both therapeutic and autobiographical, because making a living as an artist in Boston was not a happy lot. However, he quickly recovered from his teen-age rebellion, followed Enneking's advice, and gradually painted lighter and brighter pictures.

Now it was time to get up to Champney's White Mountains. Paskell found a lumber camp that might take in boarders. It was located on what was then called the bear Notch Road, although the site is now on the Kancamaugus Highway. Board and Room was $1.50 per week, provided that on every Friday Paskell would go trout fishing with sufficient effort to provide supper for the men. He reported catching about 90 trout every Friday. The Swift River was an inspiration to him. Some of his best watercolors were done at dawn before he got started fishing for the lumberjacks' supper.

Then he heard about Mount Chocorua. For years he went to Tamworth and rented a room every September at the Wonalancet Inn, trading pictures for board and room. Of course he wandered into North Conway to see Champney's White Mountains. He took side trips to Laconia to see the beauty he had heard about in that area.

He married in 1901 at the age of 34. In six years he had six children. Two died very young, four survived very well. Now he had a financial problem. In his old age, he told his granddaughter that he dealt with that challenge by serving two masters. He would produce "art for art's sake" some days, and he would produce "art for commerce" when he had to put bread on the table. The latter were speedily painted for quick sale and sold for low prices, but he "made up for it with the volume."

During the Great Depression he also painted under the name of T. Bailey and H.H. Howe in order to have three chances to attract customers in art galleries. Thus he produced about 4,000 pictures during his lifetime. Although his first love was the mountains, he estimated that he had also painted about 1,000 harbor and marine scenes that people loved. Many of his works have been lost or whereabouts are unknown. Perhaps 400 surviving paintings represent "art for art's sake." It is up to the viewer to judge, which is which; to wonder if perhaps one is looking at an unrecognized, impressionist masterpiece. Late in life, he once reflected, "I will be known for my watercolors." Perhaps only time will tell.

In 1951, at the age of 84, he died in his studio (on the fourth floor of a building on LaGrange Street in back of the Touraine Hotel in Boston, preparing some drawings for Clorin's Gallery across the street) "with pencil in his hand."

Source:
Samuel M. Robbins June 2003

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