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 George Hand Wright  (1872 - 1951)

About: George Hand Wright


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Lived/Active: Connecticut/New York      Known for: genre, town-landscape, illustrations, jewelry design

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BIOGRAPHY for George Wright
1872 (Fox Chase, Pennsylvania)
1951 (Westport, Connecticut)

Connecticut/New York

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genre, town-landscape, illustrations, jewelry design

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
This biographical note is by Paul Rizo-Patrón, grandson of George Hand Wright's brother-in-law, Arthur A. Boylan.

Artist George Hand Wright was born in Pennsylvania in about 1872. His masterful drawings and water colors merited his being made a member of the National Academy. As an illustrator, he was a weekly contributor to the Saturday Evening Post.

He was one of the founders of the artistic community of Westport, Connecticut, where he owned a large property with a Dutch Colonial house, an art studio, and a horse barn, all set on several acres of land.

George Wright had married -early in the 20th century- Anne Boylan (1877-1954), daughter of Arthur Boylan and Anna (McKenna) Boylan. She was the sister -among others- of William A. Boylan (1869-1940), founder and first President of Brooklyn College, and of Arthur A. Boylan (1879-1957), a President of the New York High School Principal's Association. George Hand Wright and his wife Anne (Boylan) Wright had no children, and he died on March 14, 1951, in Westport, Connecticut.

His Westport home was eventually inherited by one of his wife's nephews, Frank Boylan, whose widow (Constance Blum Boylan) still lives in it today. The house contained a large oil portrait of George Hand Wright painted by his friend, Swedish-born Carl Anderson.

This biography from the Archives of AskART:

Born in Pennsylvania, he studied in his native state at the Academy of Fine Arts and the Spring Garden Institute in Philadelphia.  He began his career in 1892 as an apprentice with a lithography company in Philadelphia, and then went to New York and worked as a jewelry designer. He sold his first drawings to Century Magazine, and later contributed to Harper's and The Saturday Evening Post.  In 1907, he moved to Westport, Connecticut.

Wright exhibited at the Art Students League in New York City and the Ferargil Galleries.  He was a member and past president of the Salmagundi Club and the Dutch Treat Club in New York City.  He was also a member and past president of the Society of Illustrators and the Westport Artists Group, and a member of the Society of American Etchers.

Obituary. The New York Times. March 15, 1951

submitted by Edward Gerber

Biography from Charleston Renaissance Gallery:

Once described as “the undisputed top illustrator in the nation,” George Hand Wright was born to a Quaker family in Fox Chase, Pennsylvania. The son of a blacksmith, he studied at the Spring Garden Institute and the Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia and in Paris and Munich, before settling in New York City. By the turn of the century, he had established himself there as a genre painter and illustrator.

In 1907, Wright moved permanently to Westport, Connecticut and was a founder of the art colony that developed there. From 1900 until his death in 1951, he worked as a freelance illustrator for various publications, including Harper’s, The Century, Scribner’s and, in later years, The Saturday Evening Post.  Simultaneously, he painted genre subjects—primarily outdoor scenes—in Connecticut, New York City, the South and other places, including Canada and Europe on story assignments. Wright was a member of many important art organizations and exhibited at the National Academy of Design, Salmagundi Club, Grand Central Galleries, and other venues. His work was widely admired, especially by his fellow artists, who considered him one of the finest talents of his generation.

Wright achieved his earliest success in the 1890s, with a series of oils depicting bashful suitors in awkward, sometimes embarrassing situations, but he is chiefly admired for his illustrations.  Like John Sloan, Everett Shinn and other artist-reporters, he approached his sketchbooks as diaries, making finished illustrations from on-the-spot drawings. Many of the artist’s sketches were reproduced directly in the magazines as reportorial coverage for accompanying articles. Wright is known to have made no distinction between these illustrations and the fine arts prints, watercolors and pastels he created independent of magazine commissions. It is occasionally difficult to separate the two categories, a situation complicated by the fact that he also exhibited his illustrations, possibly after reworking them.

Wright’s travels in the South are not documented, and his work is rarely dated. He appears, however, to have visited South Carolina on at least one occasion, in 1915, when he recorded aspects of African-American life in Beaufort, a small coastal town seventy miles south of Charleston. Only one of the known paintings is dated— a small watercolor entitled Laundry Day in South Carolina. The series also included A Black Wedding in Beaufort, South Carolina and similar works.

Watercolors of Zig Zag Alley, Chalmers Street and related subjects suggest that Wright began his trip in Charleston and then traveled to Beaufort by boat, stopping at Edisto to paint a series of pastels, including Looking at Rockville from Edisto Island. Although Wright was clearly engaged with realist concerns throughout his career, his pastels of the 1930s and 40s, which include scenes of African-American life in Edisto and Beaufort, are more decorative in color and composition, and may have been composed from earlier sketches, aided by memory.

Nancy Rivard Shaw

Reed, Walt. The Illustrator in America, 1880-1980: A Century of Illustration. New York: Madison Square Press, 1984.

Tarrant, Dorothy. A Community of Artists: Westport-Weston, 1900-1985.
Connecticut: Westport-Weston Arts Council, 1985.

This essay is copyrighted by the Charleston Renaissance Gallery and may not be reproduced or transmitted without written permission from Hicklin Galleries, LLC.

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