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 Wilson Henry Irvine  (1869 - 1936)

About: Wilson Henry Irvine


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Lived/Active: Connecticut/Illinois      Known for: landscape-harbor, genre and still life painting

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BIOGRAPHY for Wilson Irvine
1869 (Byron, Illinois)
1936 (Lyme, Connecticut)


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landscape-harbor, genre and still life painting

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Old Lyme Colony Painters
San Francisco Panama-Pacific Exhibition 1915
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in Byron, Illinois, Wilson Irvine became an Impressionist landscape painter, who exhibited for many years at the Art Institute of Chicago and then became a part of the Art Colony at Old Lyme, Connecticut.  He also did monotypes called aqua prints that were abstract in style compared to his other paintings.

He enrolled in an art school run by Liberty Walkup, inventor of the airbrush. In 1893, he was employed by the Chicago Portrait Company and took classes at the Art Institute of Chicago between 1895 and 1903.  By 1900, he began exhibiting at the Institute and also was close to the Hoosier Group, Indiana Impressionist artists.

He spent the summer of 1914 in Connecticut and became associated with the Old Lyme Colony.  In 1918, he moved there permanently, but he maintained close ties to the Midwest.

Biography from Charleston Renaissance Gallery:

Known chiefly for his landscapes, Wilson Henry Irvine was a prolific master of a variety of subjects and media. Never one to be content with the traditional, he is lauded for his experimentation during the 1920s and 1930s. Born in Byron, Illinois in 1869, Irvine took up journalism after high school. It wasn't until he moved to Chicago as a young adult that he developed an interest in art. He acquired a job as manager of the art department of the Chicago Portrait Company and attended classes at the Art Institute of Chicago at night. During this time, he specialized in recording on canvas the rural Illinois of his childhood.

In 1917, Irvine and his wife spent more than a year traveling throughout Britain and France. There, he expanded his repertoire, painting the quaint fishing villages that dotted those countries' respective coastlines. Irvine returned to the United States and settled in Old Lyme, Connecticut, where he became associated with Guy Wiggins and Everett Warner as part of the Old Lyme Art Colony.

Irvine was always on the cutting edge of the art world until his death in 1936. In 1927, he successfully mastered the technique of etching in aquatint. Three years later, he began producing what he termed "prismatic painting"--landscapes and still lifes as seen through a glass prism. This accentuated the effect of light on the edges of any object viewed. The style was slow to find acceptance, but Irvine persevered. In 1934, he won the best picture award in the annual exhibition of the Lyme Art Association with Indolence (date and location unknown), a prismatic rendering of a nearly life-size nude.

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

Biography from The Cooley Gallery:
Born in Illinois, Wilson Henry Irvine showed an early talent for drawing, and by his late teens, he was using an airbrush.  Early in his career he was involved in commercial art, and by 1895, he was enrolled in evening classes at The Art Institute of Chicago.  By 1900, Irvine was exhibiting landscapes and becoming actively involved in the Chicago art community as one of the founding members of that city's Palette and Chisel Club and the Cliff Dwellers.

From 1914 to 1917, the artist spent his summers painting at Old Lyme, Connecticut, where he became affiliated with the art colony there, and in 1918, he purchased a home in neighboring Hamburg.  In 1926, he was elected an associate of the National Academy of Design.

Described by one scholar as having "a keenly imaginative mind," Irvine experimented with his art throughout his career.  His "prismatic paintings,"conceived by looking at his subject through a prism, were first exhibited in 1930 at the Grand Central Art Galleries. Around that same time, he also produced "aqua prints," which introduced naturalistic forms to marbleized paper.

National Academy of Design, New York, NY
Lyme Art Association, Lyme, CT
Chicago Society of Artists, Chicago, IL
Salmagundi Club, New York, NY
National Arts Club, New York, NY

Art Institute of Chicago (prizes awarded in 1912, 1915, 1916, 1917)
Panama-Pacific Exposition, 1915 (silver medal)
Chicago Society of Artists, 1916 (medal)
Connecticut Academy of Fine Arts, 1929 (prize)
Lyme Art Association, 1934 (prize)

Biography from Abby M Taylor Fine Art:
Wilson Irvine is best known for his landscapes usually of rolling hills, open meadows and old stone walls.  He loved nature and found poetry in all that he saw before him.  It was not formal gardens and cultivated land that fascinated him but the way light filtered through trees, the way a country wall was composed and the rhythm and sway of hills, knolls and valleys.

Irvine is considered one of the masters of American Impressionist landscape painting. He was born in Illinois and as a young man moved to Chicago where he developed his interest in art.  It was during this early period that he began depicting rural landscapes.  It wasn't until Irvine married, traveled to Europe and then returned to settle in Old Lyme, Connecticut.

Irvine was a very experimental painter who was always trying to find new ways to interpret what he saw before him.  At one point, he developed a technique that he termed "prismatic".  It was based upon the same idea as looking through a glass prism, or the refraction of light.

Art Institute of Chicago
Panama-Pacific Exposition
Chicago Society of Artists
Palette and Chisel Club
Connecticut Academy of Fine Arts
Grand Central Art Gallery
Lyme Art Association
Union League Club

Sears Memorial Museum, Elgin, IL
National Arts Club
Rockford Art Association
Phoenix Art Museum
Benton Museum of Art
Lyme Historical Society
Friends of American Art
Florence Griswold Musuem, Old Lyme

Biography from Art Cellar Exchange:

Despite his fame as an American Impressionist painter, Wilson Henry Irvine spent the early part of his career as a commercial artist. Born in Illinois in 1869, Irvine worked commercially by day and by night took painting classes at The Art Institute of Chicago.  All of his hard work paid off around the turn of the century when he began exhibiting his landscapes at Chicago's Palette and Chisel Club.  Ever involved in the local art scene, Irvine was also one of the founding member of this club.

In 1914, Irvine joined the Old Lyme Art Colony. Named for a small village in Connecticut, painters living and working here hosted the first major art colony in America that encouraged Impressionism.  Irvine was fascinated and inspired by the number of artist who actively worked here and remained to paint in the colony for the next several summers.

Neighboring Hamburg was where Irvine was inspired to paint permanently and also where he purchased a home in 1918. Irvine was always most devoted to landscape painting and Hamburg provided the perfect opportunity for this artist to combine his technical skill with the passion for 'plein air' painting that he developed in Old Lyme.

Submitted by Amy Kleppinger.

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