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 Willard Leroy Metcalf  (1858 - 1925)

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Lived/Active: New York/Massachusetts      Known for: impressionist landscape, coastal and genre-figure painting

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BIOGRAPHY for Willard Metcalf
Facts/Data
Birth
1858 (Lowell, Massachusetts)
 
Death
1925 (New York City)

Lived/Active
New York/Massachusetts




Often Known For
impressionist landscape, coastal and genre-figure painting

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Cornish Colony
Impressionists Pre 1940
Old Lyme Colony Painters
San Francisco Panama-Pacific Exhibition 1915
Paris Pre 1900
"The Ten"
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in Lowell, Massachusetts, Willard Metcalf was a well-known East Coast Impressionist painter, teacher, and illustrator who also did painting in the Southwest. He was heralded in 1925 as the "poet laureate of the New England hills."

He attended Lowell and Newton public schools, apprenticed to a wood engraver, and studied landscape painting with George Loring Brown. He attended the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and life classes at Lowell Institute. He did much work in the Southwest, and as early as 1881, was in Santa Fe. His illustrations of the Zuni Indians for Frank Cushing's ethnological studies appeared in "Century Magazine" in 1882 and 1883, and other Pueblo illustrations were in "Harper's Magazine."

Sales from his illustration work financed Metcalf's travels in Europe from 1883 to 1889. He studied in Paris at the Julian Academy and was exposed primarily to traditional styles of painting until he visited Giverny, the home of Impressionist painter Claude Monet. Metcalf was perhaps the first American to arrive there. However, his word did not show much reflection of this new style until he went to Maine in 1903. From then, his painting, many of them seasonal landscapes, became more vibrant and atmospheric. His interest in Impressionism led him to become one of the founders of The Ten, a group of Boston and New York painters pioneering and promoting that style.

He settled in New York City and worked as a magazine and book illustrator and teacher at Cooper Union and the Art Students League, but continued to visit the New England landscape and became one of the leading members of the Old Lyme Art Colony in Old Lyme, Connecticut.


Source:
Peggy and Harold Samuels, "The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Artists of the American West"
Michael David Zellman, "300 Years of American Art"
----------------------------------------------------------------------
Willard Metcalf was born in July 1,1858 to a blue collar, New England family in Lowell, Massachusetts. His father was a violinist with the Boston Orchestra. When Willard was five they moved to a farm in Maine and later to Cambridgeport, Massachusetts where Willard attended school. His parents participated in the occult and predicted that their son would become a painter and encouraged him in that direction.

Metcalf attended the Massachusetts Normal Art School in Boston, apprenticed as a wood engraver and studied with George Loring Brown and Ignaz Gaugengigi at the Lowell Institute. The next year he entered the Museum School in Boston and studied the Dutch tradition of painting with Otto Grundmann. He became the first scholarship recipient of the Museum School and struggled to survive by painting illustrations for Harper's magazine.

That same year (1882) he was commissioned to travel with Frank Cushing of the Smithsonian Institute and Boston newsman Sylvester Baxter to draw and paint Zuni Indians in Arizona and New Mexico, but the heat nearly killed Metcalf. He returned to Boston where he had a very successful show at the Chase Gallery after which he traveled to England and joined Edmund Tarbell and Frank W. Benson in Paris. He studied with Boulanger and Lefebvre at the Academie Julian and painted all over France including in Giverny with Monet. In 1887 he traveled to Tunis, Algiers and Morocco and then returned to the United States to share a studio with Robert Reid and a summer studio in Old Lyme, Connecticut with William H. Howe. He illustrated for Scribner's, taught at the Art Students League and joined the Ten American Painters.

In 1901 Metcalf married his model Marguerite Beaufort Haile, an aspiring actress from New Orleans. When his wife ran off with painter Robert Nisbet the following year, Metcalf became an alcoholic, depressed and ill. In 1903 he stopped drinking and began to lighten his palette and paint with a looser brush. He received rave reviews for his work from critics and finally felt at peace. In 1911 he had married Henriette Alice McCrea and the couple had two children. But it was during a period when he was still drinking and she divorced him in 1921. He died in New York City on March 9, 1925.


Written and submitted by Jean Ershler Schatz, artist and researcher from Laguna Woods, California.

Sources:
From the internet, AskART.com
American Art Review, Vol.XI, No. 1 1999
----------------------------------------------------------------------
Note, May 2005, from Ira "Bud" Hillyer:

"May 27,2005 edition of "Antiques and the Arts Weekly" has a three full-pages article on Willard Metcalf




Biography from Pierce Galleries, Inc.:
Willard Leroy Metcalf (American, 1858-1925):

Impressionist painter Willard Leroy Metcalf was born July 1, 1858 in Lowell, MA the son of Greenleaf Willard, a violinist with the Boston Orchestra and Margaret Jan Gallop. In 1863, the Metcalfs moved to a farm in Maine and in 1871 moved to Cambridgeport, MA, where Metcalf attended school. Metcalf’s parents participated in the occult and predicted their son would become a painter and encouraged him in that direction.

Metcalf attended the Mass. Normal Art School (Boston), apprenticed as a wood engraver (1874) and studied with George Loring Brown (who taught him to draw accurately truths in nature, and to paint Roman figures, judges and wreathed heads with the same precision) in South Boston and with Munich-trained Ignaz Gaugengigl at the Lowell Institute. The next year he entered the Museum School (Boston) and studied the Dutch tradition of painting with Otto Grundmann. He became the 1st scholarship recipient of the Museum School (1878) and struggled to survive by painting illustrations for Harper’s (1882).

That same year, Century magazine commissioned him to travel with Frank Cushing of the Smithsonian Institution and Boston newsman Sylvester Baxter to draw and paint Zuni Indians in Arizona and New Mexico, but the heat nearly killed Metcalf and he rapidly returned to Boston to exhibited seventy–five paintings with Chase Gallery. Because of the show’s success he traveled to England and joined Edmund C. Tarbell and Frank W. Benson in Paris.

Metcalf studied with Jules-Joseph Boulanger and Gustave-Rodolphe Lefebvre at the Académie Julian and painted in Pont Aven, Brittany, Grez-sur-Laing, Dieppe and in Giverny with Monet (1885-1886). In the fall of 1887 he painted in Tunis, Algeria and Morocco and returned that year to the U.S. to share a Tenth Street studio in NYC with impressionist painter Robert Reid, and a summer studio in Old Lyme (CT) with William H. Howe. He illustrated for Scribner’s, taught at the Arts Student League (1898-1908) and joined the Ten American Painters (1898).

In 1899, he painted in Gloucester with Charles A. Winter and J.H. Twachtman and in 1901 married his model Marguerite Beaufort Haile (an aspiring actress from New Orleans). When his wife ran off with painter Robert Nisbet (1902), Metcalf became an alcoholic and when Twachtman died that same year he became depressed and ill. In 1903, after he moved to Clark’s Cove (ME), stopped drinking and began to lighten his palette and paint with a looser brush, Metcalf confessed this period was his “new-birth,” or “Renaissance.”

In 1904, he returned to NYC with twenty-one magnificent landscapes that showed the changing atmospheric environs of nature. From 1909-1925 he studied nature’s tonal nuances as he painted snowscapes at Cornish, NH and he received rave reviews from critics and finally felt at peace.

Although he married Henriette Alice McCrea in 1911 and the couple had two children, McCrea would not play second fiddle to Metcalf’s art and drinking and she divorced him in 1921.

Metcalf continued to paint muted colors in delicate tapestries that explored the American landscape and the New York Herald (March 21, 1920) noted that in the study of winter he had “achieved his special metier.” Metcalf died in New York City March 9, 1925 a respected landscape impressionist who is represented in museums throughout America.

Awards: Paris Salon, hon. mention (1888); PAFA (gold, 1907, 1912); Columbian Expo., Chicago, 1893 (medal); SAA 1896 (medal); St. Louis Expo. (medal, 1904); Corcoran Gallery (gold medal, 1907); Art Institute of Chicago (silver medal, 1910); Buenos Aires Expo, (gold medal, 1910)

Solo Exhibitions include: St. Botolph Club (1889); Adler & Schwartz Gallery, NYC (1905); Corcoran Gallery (1925); Montross Gallery (1910, NYC);Newport AA (inaugural, 1912); Milch Galleries, NCY (Memorial, 1925); Spanierman Gallery, Retrospective (1996); Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College (1999).

Bibliography: Richard Boyle & E. DeVeer, Sunlight & Shadow: The Life and Art of Willard Metcalf (Abbeville, NY, 1988); Patricia Jobe Pierce, The Ten (1976).

Patricia Jobe Pierce, historian

Biography from Owen Gallery:
Willard Metcalf was the only child born to a blue collar, New England family that frequently moved throughout Maine and Massachusetts, finally settling in Cambridgeport, Massachusetts in 1871.

By 1874, Metcalf began to produce his first paintings and attended night classes at the Massachusetts Normal Art School.   In 1877, he won a scholarship to the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.  In February 1882, Metcalf organized an auction of his art works in order to raise money for European travel.  The money earned from the auction, along with funds he had saved from illustration assignments, enabled the young artist to set sail for Paris in September 1883.  He remained abroad for more than five years, studying at the Academie Julian and traveling extensively throughout Europe and North Africa.

After returning to the United States in 1888, Metcalf finally settled in New York in 1890, earning an income as a portraitist, illustrator, and teacher.  Although Metcalf's life in the late 1890s was marked by "fitful person relationships and [artistic] unproductiveness" (Ulrich Hiesinger, Impressionism in America, p. 24), he counted among his friends such artists as J. Henry Twachtman, Robert Reid, and Edward Simmons.  In 1898, Metcalf was one of the founding members of The Ten, a group of artists who rebelled against the tight strictures of the National Academy of Design.

Metcalf managed eventually to get his problems under control, and enjoyed a long, successful career, despite the occasional re-emergence of bouts of financial troubles, romantic conflicts, and heavy drinking. One indication of his reputation during his lifetime was the sale of Benediction for thirteen-thousand dollars, then the highest price ever paid for a painting by a living American artist.

In 1925, a year after the failure of his second marriage, Metcalf suffered a fatal heart attack.

Biography from The Columbus Museum of Art, Georgia:
Willard Leroy Metcalf was born July 1, 1858, in Lowell Massachusetts, the son of Greenleaf Willard Metcalf, a violinist with the Boston Orchestra, and Margaret Jan Gallop, a loom tender.(1)  In 1863, the Metcalf family moved to Maine, and eight years later, they moved to Cambridgeport, Massachusetts, where Metcalf attended school.  His parents believed in supernatural phenomena, and having been told in a séance that their son would become a famous painter, they encouraged him in that direction.  By 1874, Metcalf had produced his first paintings, and he attended night classes at the Massachusetts Normal Art School.  From 1875 to 1877, he studied under noted landscapist George Loring Brown in Boston and apprenticed with him as a wood engraver.  He also studied with Munich-trained Ignaz Gaugengigl at the Lowell Institute.   Metcalf won a scholarship to the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and studied there from 1877 to 1878. He earned a living by painting illustrations for several magazines.

From 1881 to 1883, he traveled in Arizona and New Mexico with the journalist Sylvester Baker and Frank Cushing of the Smithsonian Institution to document the Zuni Indians for Harper’s and Century magazines.  After this trip, Metcalf returned to Boston and exhibited seventy-five paintings with Chase Gallery.  The money earned from the exhibition, along with funds he had saved during his employment as an illustrator, allowed him to travel abroad in 1883.  Metcalf studied with Gustave Boulanger and Jules-Joseph Lefèbvre at the Académie Julian in Paris.  In 1886, he traveled with Theodore Robinson to meet Monet in Giverny.  However, he was affected only marginally by Impressionism at this time, and he continued to paint in a more academic style.  He won an honorable mention at the Paris Salon of 1888.

Metcalf returned to the U.S. in late 1888 to share a studio in New York with impressionist painter Robert Reid.  Over the next ten years, he taught at various schools, such as Cooper Union, the Art Students League, and the Rhode Island School of Design.  In 1897, he wrote the statement of secession for The Ten American Painters, who had broken away from the National Academy of Design to exhibit on their own.(2) Although the artists in this group were inspired primarily by Impressionism, Metcalf’s paintings at this time did not adhere to that aesthetic.

In 1903, he married Marguerite Beaufort Haile, an aspiring actress from New Orleans who was his model.(3)  Their life together was characterized by excessive drinking and socializing.  In 1904, Metcalf moved to Clark’s Cove, Maine.  There he stopped drinking, and he began to concentrate on painting the northeastern landscape.  He changed his painting style, lightening his palette and adopting the broken brushstrokes characteristic of Impressionism.  Metcalf called this period his “Renaissance.”
In 1904, he returned to New York with twenty-one landscapes, unlike anything he had painted before.  Though he maintained a studio in New York City until his death, Metcalf spent much of his time traveling and painting in New England.  In 1909, he joined the art colony in Cornish, New Hampshire.(4)  He painted at Old Lyme, where he was a prominent member of that artist colony, in the Berkshires, at Chester and Springfield, Vermont, and in Maine, at Casco Bay and the Damariscotta peninsula.

Metcalf won a gold medal at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts exhibition in 1907.  He married Henriette Alice McCrea in 1911, and the couple had two children. The artist enjoyed a lengthy, flourishing career, despite the occasional bouts of financial troubles and alcoholism, which ultimately led Henriette to leave him in 1921.  Metcalf suffered a heart attack and died on March 9, 1925, in New York.

Unlike the other members of The Ten, Metcalf never painted with a completely impressionist technique, but used stylistic elements of both Tonalism and Impressionism.  He particularly enjoyed painting seasonal landscapes, and he was well known for his winter scenes.(5)  He felt that landscape could be employed in the solution of painting problems, such as exploring white as a color through painting a snow scene.(6)

Footnotes:
1. Biographical information taken from the following: Elizabeth de Veer and Richard J. Boyle, Sunlight and Shadow (New York: Abbeville Press, 1987); Barbara J. MacAdam, Winter’s Promise: Willard Metcalf in Cornish, New Hampshire 1909-1920 (Hanover, New Hampshire: Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, 1999); Patricia Jobe Pierce, The Ten (Concord, NH: Rumford Press, 1976); and Michael David Zellman, American Art Analogue (New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1986), 543. Specific dates in Metcalf’s biography vary from publication to publication; the dates in this entry were taken from de Veer and Boyle.
2. The other members were: Frank Weston Benson, Joseph Rodefer De Camp, Thomas Dewing, Childe Hassam, Robert Reid, Edward E. Simmons, Edmund C. Tarbell, John H. Twachtman, and Julian Alden Weir. There were actually a total of eleven members; William Merritt Chase was asked to join the group after the death of Twachtman.
3. Marguerite left him for the painter Robert Nisbet in 1907.
4. The sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens founded the artist colony at Cornish. Metcalf often painted there, as did other artists such as Maxfield Parrish, Kenyon Cox, and Thomas Dewing.
5. Tonalism, popular from the 1860s to the early 1900s in American art, is characterized by landscapes painted with soft application and quiet color harmonies. 6. Richard J. Boyle, Spanierman Gallery, Willard Leroy Metcalf An American Impressionist 1996, n.p.
Submitted by the Staff of the Columbus Museum, Georgia

Biography from Spanierman Gallery:
A leading American Impressionist and a member of the Ten American Painters, Willard Leroy Metcalf is best known for scenes of the hills and countryside of New England in which he merged a realist and an Impressionist approach. For his intimate and sweeping vistas of the rural locales that he knew so well, he was acclaimed as the “painter laureate of New England,” and his direct and sincere works have been compared with the poems of Robert Frost.

Born in Lowell, Massachusetts, Metcalf was the son of a Civil War veteran and a violinist with the Boston Symphony orchestra. Like many American artists in the nineteenth century, he started his career as a wood engraver. His early studies consisted of evening classes at the Massachusetts Normal School in 1874 and at the Lowell Institute in 1875. In that year, he was also an apprentice to the landscape painter George Loring Brown (1814-1889), who instilled in him an awareness of the importance of draftsmanship. In 1876 Metcalf was awarded one of the first scholarships to the newly founded School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (later known as the Boston Museum School), where Thomas Wilmer Dewing was an early member of the faculty. Metcalf studied there from 1877 to 1879, primarily with William Rimmer (1816-1879).

In the spring of 1881 Metcalf received what was probably his most important illustration commission. He accompanied the journalist Sylvester Baxter to the Southwest for Harper’s to illustrate Baxter’s article on the Zuni Indians. In June 1881 Metcalf met and painted the brilliant and controversial ethnologist Frank Hamilton Cushing (1857-1900), who would be photographed and painted by Thomas Eakins in 1895. By 1883 Metcalf had saved enough money to study in France, sailing there in September.

In Paris Metcalf studied at the Académie Julian under Gustave Boulanger and Jules Lefebvre, and made summer sojourns to the popular artists’ colonies of Pont Aven, Grez-sur-Loing, and Giverny. Sunset at Grez (1884-85; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.), The Ten Cent Breakfast (1887; the Denver Art Museum, Colorado), and Mid-Summer Twilight, (1888; the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.), are notable works of this period.

In late 1886 and early 1887 Metcalf visited North Africa, where he painted striking light-filled scenes such as Arab Encampment, Biskra (private collection). A visit to Venice ensued. By 1889 Metcalf was back in the United States and living in New York, where he taught, created portraits, and produced illustrations. With the help of the architect, Stanford White, he was also commissioned for a number of paintings of Cuba from the Havana Tobacco Company for their New York store, designed by White, at Broadway and Twenty-Third Street.

In 1896 Metcalf won the coveted Webb Prize at the Society of American Artists’ Annual Exhibition with his painting, Gloucester Harbor (1895; Mead Art Museum, Amherst, Massachusetts). In the following year, he became a member of the Ten American Painters, to whose exhibitions he would contribute until the group dissolved in 1923. In 1899 he painted two murals for the Appellate Court building in New York City. In 1903 he visited Old Lyme, Connecticut, for the first time. There he became a “peacemaker,” mediating between the warring Tonalist and Impressionist camps. Abandoning Old Lyme in 1907, Metcalf spent a few peripatetic years. His art flourished, and works such as his graciously structured Flying Shadows (No. 2) (ca. 1909; private collection), with its hilly undulations marked by the linear accents of trees were worthy of such comments as that by a New York Evening Post critic who remarked of the artist that year: “No one has painted so much American scenery with so sensitive an eye to its variety, with so faithful an idiom, and with such scrupulous suppression of personal romanticisms and pictorial irrelevancies.”[1]

Metcalf’s remarriage in 1911 began a joyous phase in his career, and his two-month honeymoon in the artists’ colony of Cornish, New Hampshire, resulted in a number of his finest works, several portraying the frozen Blow-Me-Down Brook. By 1915 Metcalf had two young children and was experiencing satisfaction and success in his personal life and in his career. In the 1920s, when many of his colleagues were either deceased or painting with diminished capacities, Metcalf continued to work with full strength. One critic, writing in 1925 of the last one-man show held in his lifetime, noted that his power had “steadily grown, so that his big landscapes with their background of mountains and their vast expanses of rolling valley and winding river are pulled together into coherence by skillful handling of values and subtle placing of accents.”[2]

Metcalf’s paintings may be found in many important private and public collections, including the Addison Gallery of American Art, Phillips Academy, Andover, Massachusetts; the Art Institute of Chicago; Ball State University Museum of Art, Muncie, Indiana; the Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown, Ohio; the Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, Virginia; the Columbus Museum of Art, Ohio; the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; the Cornish Colony Museum, New Hampshire; the Dallas Museum of Art, Texas; the Denver Art Museum; the Detroit Institute of Arts; the Florence Griswold Museum, Old Lyme, Connecticut; the Huntington Library and Gallery, San Marino, California; the Freer Collection, Washington, D.C.; the Mead Art Museum, Amherst, Massachusetts; the Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire; the Memorial Art Gallery, University of Rochester, New York; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Musée d’Art Américain, Giverny, France; the Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; the New Britain Museum of American Art, Connecticut; the North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh; the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia; the San Diego Museum of Art, California; the Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery, University of Nebraska, Lincoln; Smith College Museum of Art, Northampton, Massachusetts; the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.; the Telfair Museum of Art, Savannah, Georgia; the Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago; the Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Connecticut; Washington County Museum of Fine Arts, Hagerstown, Maryland; the White House, Washington, D.C.; and Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Connecticut.

Lisa N. Peters

---
1. New York Evening Post, March 26, 1910, in Metcalf Scrapbook, p. 29, Willard Leroy Metcalf Papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
2. New York Evening Post, February 21, 1925, in Scrapbook, p. 83a, Willard Leroy Metcalf Papers.

©The essay herein is the property of Spanierman Gallery LLC and is copyrighted by Spanierman Gallery LLC and may not be reproduced in whole or in part, without written permission from Spanierman Gallery LLC nor shown or communicated to anyone without due credit being given to Spanierman Gallery LLC.


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