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Dodge Macknight

 (1860 - 1950)
Dodge Macknight was active/lived in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island / Europe.  Dodge Macknight is known for watercolor sea-snow-landscape and genre painting.

Dodge Macknight

Biography from the Archives of askART

Biography photo for Dodge Macknight
Born in Providence, Rhode Island, Dodge MacKnight became a landscape and genre painter of "the scenic wonders of the world," but another of his favorite subjects was the American West.  Of his bright colors, one reviewer described his painting as "impressionism gone mad" (Vose Gallery).

He apprenticed with a stage-set designer and worked in New Bedford for the Tabor Art Company that made reproductions of paintings and photographs.

In 1883, he studied in Paris in the studio of Fernand Cormon, and also exhibited in the Paris Salons from 1885 through 1887.  In Paris, he became a friend of Vincent VanGogh and visited him several times in Arles.  He then based himself professionally in Massachusetts, and had a long-term relationship with the Doll and Richards Gallery in Boston.  But for fifteen years, he traveled widely in France, Spain, and North Africa.

In 1897, he returned to the United States with his French wife and son, and settled in East Sandwich on Cape Cod but continued to travel world wide.  His garish watercolor paintings were startling to many Bostonians, but influential critics admired him as did widely respected artists such as Philip Hale and Denman Ross.  Prestigious museums including the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and the Stewart Gardner bought his works, and his exhibitions regularly sold out in the 1920s.

In addition to his European travels, he returned often to the West.  He began painting in Utah in 1913, and was at the Grand Canyon a year later from which at least twenty watercolors remain.  In 1920, he first painted at Bryce Canyon, which he wrote was "an extraordinary place, a big hollow a thousand feet deep, filled with thousands of Buddhist temples of an orange pink color." (Dawdy, 180)

In order to be near his subjects, he traveled with camping gear, sable brushes, watercolors, and Whatman paper in a specially designed case with detachable lid in which wet paintings could be stored.

In 1931, his wife and son died, and he stopped painting but lived another nineteen years.

Doris Dawdy, Artists of the American West, Volume II
Vose Gallery Notes, Winter 1999

Biography from Spanierman Gallery (retired)
Ranked among America's foremost watercolorists of the early twentieth century, Dodge Macknight established a notable reputation in Boston art circles at the turn of the century. Although his vividly-colored landscapes stunned the critics, his annual exhibitions were sold-out events; indeed, Macknight's patrons included Boston's foremost art collectors, among them Sarah Choate Sears and Desmond Fitzgerald. His work was also acquired by Isabella Stewart Gardner, who displayed his watercolors in a specially created "Macknight Room" at Fenway Court.

Macknight was born in Providence, Rhode Island in 1860. Despite passing the entrance examination to Brown University, he decided to pursue an artistic career instead, serving an apprenticeship with a theatrical scene and sign painter from 1876 to 1878. In 1878, he embarked on a five-year period of employment with the Taber Art Company in New Bedford, Massachusetts, a firm that made reproductions of paintings and photographs.

During these years, Macknight began painting in his spare time. In 1883, a loan from a friend enabled him to go to Paris, where he studied under Fernand Cormon from 1884 until 1886, and exhibited at the Salons of 1885, 1886, and 1887. While in Paris in 1886, he became friendly with the Post-Impressionist painter Vincent van Gogh, whom he later visited in Arles.

Between 1886 and 1897, Macknight traveled throughout Europe and the Mediterranean, visiting and painting in southern France, Belgium, and Algeria. In 1892, he went to Orihuela, Spain, where he married Louise Queyrel, a French woman from Valserres, in the Hautes-Alpes.

Bostonians were first introduced to Macknight's work in 1888, when he exhibited thirty-five watercolors of European scenery at Doll & Richards Gallery. With the exception of the years 1893-1896, he exhibited there annually for the remainder of his career. In 1890, while visiting England, Macknight exhibited a selection of paintings in John Singer Sargent's London studio.

Returning to America in 1897, Macknight lived in Mystic, Connecticut before settling in East Sandwich on Cape Cod in 1900. In the ensuing years he painted snow scenes there and in New Hampshire. His summers were spent traveling to locales that provided him with interesting scenery and strong sunlight. In addition to the United States, where he visited such popular vacation spots as the Grand Canyon, Macknight was also active in Spain (1904), Jamaica (1906), Morocco (1921), and Bermuda (1923).

Macknight's broad, vigorous paint handling was similar to that of John Singer Sargent, another of Boston's premiere watercolorists; however, he was unique in his daring use of color, often juxtaposing intense shades of violet and red. While contemporary reviewers found his Post-Impressionist palette somewhat shocking (often referring to his watercolors as "Macknightmares"), his approach was praised by the more progressive-minded artists of the day, including Philip Leslie Hale and Denman Ross. His reputation on the local art scene was firmly secured when the discerning Mrs. Gardner began purchasing his watercolors, going on to create the "Macknight Room" in 1915. It was Gardner who advised Macknight to frame his pictures in white, a practice he adopted after around 1908.

Macknight was at the height of his career during the 1920s. Indeed, his shows at Doll & Richards Gallery would often sell out within the hour, attesting to his extraordinary popularity. His stature was such that in 1921, his watercolors were exhibited at the Boston Art Club, along with those of Sargent and Winslow Homer, America's other preeminent watercolorists. Two years later, sixty-three of Macknight's watercolors were featured at the Exposition d'Art Americain in Paris. The artist also exhibited at the Boston Water Color Club, the New York Water Color Club, the New Society of Artists in New York, and elsewhere throughout the northeast. He continued to paint up until his retirement in 1930.

Macknight died in East Sandwich in May of 1950. His work is represented in major public collections throughout the United States, including the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts; the Worcester Art Museum, Massachusetts; the Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence; and the Brooklyn Museum.


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About  Dodge Macknight

Born:  1860 - Providence, Rhode Island
Died:   1950 - Sandwich, Massachusetts
Known for:  watercolor sea-snow-landscape and genre painting

Essays referring to
Dodge Macknight

New York Armory Show of 1913
Painters of Grand Canyon