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Waldo Peirce

 (1884 - 1970)
Waldo Peirce was active/lived in New York, Maine, Massachusetts.  Waldo Peirce is known for figure, children, landscape, still life.

Waldo Peirce

Biography from the Archives of askART

Biography photo for Waldo Peirce
Waldo Peirce was known for his paintings of his children, a subject he depicted numerous times when he settled in Bangor, Maine with his third wife after years of travel in Europe where he led a fun-filled adventurous life. His style was loose and imperfect but full of the spirit of what he was painting, which in his early career was often landscapes.

He was born the son of a wealthy lumberman in Bangor, Maine and studied at Harvard University where he was known much more for his personality and football playing skills than for his scholastic ability.

In 1910, he decided to go to Europe, but after boarding the ship in Boston, changed his mind, jumped overboard and swam ashore. However, shortly after that, he left for England and then went to the Academie Julian in Paris, and lived partying life around Europe. He engaged in many pastimes including canoe racing on the Thames in England and football on a French team in Ireland. During World War I, he served as an ambulance driver and earned the Croix de Guerre for bravery.

After the War, he toured in Spain with writer Ernest Hemingway and painted in the styles of Spanish artist Ignacio Zuloaga and French modernist Henri Matisse. In 1959, Waldo Peirce did a portrait of Hemingway during a reunion with him in Tucson. (According to the owner of the portrait, A Calicchio, the painting has been authenticated by credentialed experts.)

Returning to Maine after World War II, Waldo Peirce finally settled into a painting style with which he was comfortable---the paintings of his growing family. Before his death in 1970, he completed hundreds of canvases of these subjects.

Michael David Zellman, "300 Years of American Art"
A. Calicchio, Message submitted February 2005
The following is from Martin L Peterson:

A large oil by Peirce of a slaughtered steer hangs in the stairwell leading to the second floor of Ernest Hemingway's house in Ketchum, Idaho. It is inscribed to Hemingway from Peirce as a birthday present.

Peirce's papers are at Colby College in Maine.
This information was submitted February 2005 by Michele Balliett Wynn, niece of Waldo Peirce. She lists two sources:

(1) a 1965 catalog entitled, "A Retrospective Exhibition: Waldo Peirce" (a traveling show that included the Colby College Art Museum in Waterville, ME; the William A. Farnsworth Art Library and Museum, Rockland, ME; the Addison Gallery of American Art, Andover, MA; the Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, NY; and Midtown Galleries, New York City), and

(2) "Waldo Peirce" (New York: American Artists Group Monograph No. 5, 1945). There is one discrepancy between the two; the spelling of "Julian Academy" versus "Julien Academy."

From the 1965 catalog:

"Waldo Peirce was born in Bangor, Maine, in 1884; the Peirce family had long been associated with lumber interests in the northern sections of the state. Following his education at the Phillips Academy in Andover and Harvard University, Peirce studied at the Art Students League in New York City and at the Julian Academy in Paris. In his twenties and thirties he traveled widely, living the colorful stories of his Bohemian life.

He was first influenced by early Spanish artists and then by the more colorful French impressionists. He later developed his own bold form of impressionism: a form that has remained basically unchanged over the years.

Today Peirce divides his time between the Maine coastal area of Searsport--where he and his family spend the summers--and Newburyport, Massachusetts--their home during the winter. He continues to paint the world about him with the boldness and freshness that has always characterized his work."

From the 1945 monograph section entitled, "Biographical Note":

"Born at Bangor, Maine on December 17, 1884. Studied at Art Students League and Julien Academy, Paris.

Waldo Peirce is represented in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum, Whitney Museum, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Addison Gallery of American Art, Brooklyn Museum, University of Arizona, State College of Washington, Encyclopaedia Brittanica Collection, Harvard University, University of Maine, University of Nebraska, Farnsworth Gallery. His paintings have for many years been included in all the important national and international exhibitions.

Peirce won the First Purchase Prize at the Pomona, California national watercolor exhibition; won $2,500 First Purchase Prize at Portrait of America Exhibition 1944; won award at Carnegie Institute Exhibition 1944.

Among the many private collections in which paintings by Peirce are included are: Franklin D. Roosevelt, Herman Shulman, Mervyn LeRoy, Charles K. Feldman, Paulette Goddard, Burgess Meredith, Samuel Golden, Ernest Hemingway, John Marquand, E. L. Ryerson, etc."


Waldo Peirce was born in Bangor, Maine in 1884, the son of a wealthy lumberman. He was educated at Phillips Academy and Harvard (Class of 1907) but he overslept his last exam and never really graduated. Later he jumped off a cattle boat in Boston harbor and swam miles before being picked up by lobster fishermen, leaving his companion to be hauled up for his presumable murder.

He went to Paris to study at the Julian Academy. He made a tour of Europe, particularly in Spain with Ernest Hemingway, and served in the French and American armies during World War I. In 1912, during a trip to Rome, Peirce decided he was through with formal training and began to paint for himself. It was in Spain that he got married for the first time. 1920 was the year of his second marriage.

He drove a Model T Ford for an ambulance unit. After that he spent three winters in Tunis, where he was elected to the Isawa of Hammamet, a lodge of whirling dervishes. His large untidy beard and his Rabelaisian vocabulary contributed toward his reputation as "the last of the Bohemians." He remained abroad until 1930, following the 19th century artists' route to the Midi and Tunisia, all the while absorbing the French manner of painting. While there he painted local scenes in the flat bright manner of Henri Matisse.

Peirce was married four times and fathered five children with the third and fourth wives. His painting changed with the growing family, becoming warmer and filled with action of his children. His paintings glowed with a health and happiness rarely found in more ambitious pictures.

Time Magazine, October 0, 1950
Look Magazine (date unknown)
From the Internet,

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

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About  Waldo Peirce

Born:  1884 - Bangor, Maine
Died:   1970 - Newburyport, Massachusetts
Known for:  figure, children, landscape, still life