1865 (Corsham, Wiltshire, England)
1938 (Peoria, Illinois)
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impressionist landscape and floral painting
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|This biography from the Archives of AskART:|
|The following biographical information was prepared by Channy Lyons, arts/community and women’s history writer in Peoria, IL.|
Biography for Hedley William Waycott (1865-1938)
Birth: 1865 (Corsham, England)
Death: 1938 (Peoria, Illinois)
Known for: American Impressionist style landscape oil, watercolor, and pastel paintings
Methods: Plein-Air painter
Mediums: oil, watercolor, pastel
Subjects: landscapes, florals
Places visited: Indiana, New Mexico, Michigan, Virginia.
Teachers: Frank C. Peyraud; Arthur Loomis
Associations: Society of Independent Artists; All-Illinois Society of
Fine Arts; Peoria Society of Fine Arts; Peoria Art Institute; Palette
and Chisel Club of Chicago; American Federation of Arts.
Society of Independent Artists (1928 & 1931); National Academy of
Design (1934); Peoria Society of Allied Arts; Peoria Art Institute;
All-Illinois Society of Fine Arts; Chicago No-Jury Society;
Retrospective/Lakeview Museum-Peoria, 2006.
Illinois State Museum, Springfield, Illinois and Lakeview Museum, Peoria, Illinois.
Biography for Hedley William Waycott
For thirty years in the early 1900s, Hedley William Waycott was Peoria,
Illinois’ best-loved painter. His name symbolized art in the
city. He influenced several generations of Peoria artists and
patrons, and his local and regional landscape paintings, primarily
prepared in a loose American Impressionist style, were collected
eagerly during his lifetime. Many still hang today in homes and
offices in Peoria and around the country – “gifts of lasting beauty
that enrich our lives,” as local columnist F R. Oakley wrote.
Waycott was born in 1865 in a small town on the southerly tip of the
Cotswolds in southwestern England. He was apprenticed to a London
jeweler in 1879 at the age of 14. In 1882, he immigrated to
America, joining his father and three sisters who were already
established in Peoria. Waycott was unable to find work as a jeweler and
accepted a job at Newkirk & Pay, a shop that sold mirrors, pictures
and frames. By 1894 the original owners had retired, and Waycott
took over the business, renaming it Hedley W. Waycott & Co.,
“dealer in paintings, engravings and artist’s supplies…china firing a
specialty… manufacturer and gilder of picture frames.”
Waycott made his first painting soon after he married Louise McFadden
in 1887. She was a china painter and a watercolorist. One Sunday
afternoon, she was working on an oil painting of a cluster of yellow
roses and asked Hedley to fill in the last rose. He was pleased
with the result and decided to try a painting of his own. He had
no formal training in painting (other than the rudimentary instruction
every young child received in school), yet he had learned about
composition and design and handling a brush as an apprentice in
England, and he applied these principles to his experiments with oil
painting. Some time later, Waycott put a completed painting in
the art shop window and it quickly sold.
In the early years, Waycott was more interested in encouraging other
artists than making his own pictures. He advised beginners to buy
modest, inexpensive equipment instead of the elaborate outfits he might
have sold them. He told them that a palette of seven (even five
or three) colors was enough for all practical purposes. In later
years, he shared the techniques he had learned by trial and error in
the classes he taught at the Peoria Art League and the Art Institute of
Throughout his life, Waycott was an inspiration to local artists.
His shop was a rendezvous spot for artists. They stored their
easels in the back room, and gathered after work to paint and to look
at the artwork and frames at the shop. On Sundays, they set out
from the shop on foot to paint on the hillsides and prairies
nearby. Later they exhibited their work at the store.
Waycott was a member of the Men’s Sketch Club, which started about
1888. He helped form the Peoria Art League in 1894, when the
Sketch Club decided to invite women artists to join them and changed
the organization’s name. He was president of the Art League from
1914 to 1923. He was active in the Peoria Society of Allied Arts,
an umbrella organization uniting the Art League, the Peoria Women’s
Club art and literature department, Bradley University’s manual arts
department, and the city’s association of commerce. It was formed
in 1913 to unite the art interests of the city and to lobby for a city
museum. Waycott exhibited in most of the League and Society shows
for 40 years. By 1915 when a Men’s Saturday Afternoon Sketch Club
was started under the auspices of the Society, Waycott was looked upon
as the dean of the group. In 1923 the Society and Peoria Art
League joined together to form the Art Institute of Peoria and Waycott
was elected a director of the new organization.
In 1904, he closed his art shop, committing himself to painting.
He would supplement his earnings for the next 34 years by making the
distinguished frames his patrons had grown to admire. His frames
were masterfully carved, decorative constructions, designed and
finished to enhance a particular work of art.
In 1910, he sent a painting of a wheat field in full top to the Palette
and Chisel Club of Chicago and won entrance into the club. Later he
became a member of the American Federation of Arts and the National
Academy of Design.
By the 1920s Waycott had developed a loyal following for his local
scene paintings. He received carte blanche orders from customers.
They would tell him to “make up a painting that costs so much…you
choose the subject. Make what you like to fill such and such a place.
Include my card, and ship it to such and such an address.”
His one-man show in Peoria in 1927 brought him further acclaim and
record sales. When he announced that he would travel in the
Midwest the following year to sketch and paint, his Peoria patrons
commissioned him to sketch specific places along the route.
In 1928 and 1931, he showed paintings in the Independent Artists’ Society exhibitions in New York City. His oil painting The Snow Storm
hung in the 109th National Academy of Design exhibition in New York in
1932. Later, his work appeared in exhibits in Chicago and in New
Waycott’s works were shown almost every year in the late 1920s and
1930s. The exhibit of his oils and pastels in Peoria in 1932 was
the most popular art show held in the city in over 30 years. His
paintings hung in private collections throughout Central Illinois and
in California, even India, as well as the Midwest and the East
Coast. Today his works are prized today for their beauty and
representation of the bluffs and streams characteristic of the Illinois
River valley. In addition, they act as historical documents for
He made a living with his paintings – and frame making. Waycott
learned early on what Peorians liked, and he gave it to them.
“They prefer landscapes,” he once said. “That’s why I paint
landscapes. I would prefer to make marines. But inland
people don’t want marines. They want subjects with which they have
intimate contact. That’s why I paint Peoria for them.”
The Peoria arts community was very active in the first 40 years of the
20th century, and Waycott played a central role in making it so.
“Probably no other individual has contributed more to the rise and
growth of art in our city,” a reviewer wrote some years after Waycott’s
death in 1938.
He created over 800 paintings, and his work has been handed on from one
generation to the next, given as gifts, and sought-after at
auctions. A Waycott collector said recently that the artist’s
paintings make him feel as though he could step right into the
scene. Another added that they appeal to the sense of beauty he
finds in nature.
A retrospective of Waycott’s work will be held at Lakeview Museum in
Peoria from October 28, 2006 through January 13, 2007. A book
with more than 220 of his paintings will accompany the exhibition.
Sources: Please note that I have 4 pages of sources used for all
of the writings (the Waycott book, additional essays, and this
biography) about Hedley Waycott. Most of the listings are local
newspaper articles and organization documents, which are grouped
Subject File headings below. Local history books as well as city
directories and census, immigration records, and correspondence with
sources in Great Britain were also use.
A selected list follows:
Cooley, Adelaide N. A Biographical Dictionary of Peoria Artists, 1830-1982, with reference guide. Peoria: 1982.
Falk, Peter Hastings. National Academy Exhibitions Record, 1901-1950. CT: Sound View Press, 1990.
Falk, Peter H. ed. Who Was Who in American Art, 1564-1975. Vol 3. CT: Sound View Press, 1999.
Gerdts, William H. The South and the Midwest, Art Across America, Two
Centuries of Regional Painting 1710-1920. Vol 2. NewYork: Abbeville
Marlor, Charles S. The Society of Independent Artists. Park Ridge NJ: Noyes Press, 1984.
Sparks, Esther. A Biographical Dictionary of Painters and Sculptors of
Illinois 1808-1945. 2 vols. Ph.D. diss. Northwestern University, 1971.
Subject files. Bradley University Special Collections Library.
Subject files. Peoria Historical Society Collection, Bradley University Library.
Subject files. Peoria Public Library.
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