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 Alexander Helwig Wyant  (1836 - 1892)

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Lived/Active: New York/Ohio      Known for: tonalist landscape and genre painting

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Ad Code: 2
Alexander Helwig Wyant
from Auction House Records.
Hudson River View
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in Evans Creek, Ohio, Alexander Wyant was a tonalist landscape and genre painter who was part of the Hudson River School painters but who is credited with making the transition within that School from a tight, restrictive style to the freer methods of Impressionism.  He was much influenced by the French Barbizon impressionists, and his signature grandiose eastern mountain landscapes with dramatic cloud formations were much sought after during his lifetime.

He was raised in a family of itinerant farmers and early apprenticed to a harness maker and sign painter. His commitment to becoming an artist resulted from his seeing landscapes by George Inness Sr. in an exhibition in Cincinnati in 1857.  He made a trip to New York to meet Inness, who recognizing the young man's talent, helped him secure to the patronage of Nicholas Longworth of Cincinnati.

This financial help enabled Wyant to study for a year at the National Academy in New York City, where he settled for a short time in 1863.  By 1865, he was  in Karlsruhe, Germany with Hans Fredrik Gude, a Norwegian artist of the Dusseldorf school.  Wyant also lived in England and was much influenced by the landscapes of J.M.W. Turner.  In 1867, he returned to New York City where he established a studio and from where he traveled frequently into the Adirondack and Catskill Mountains.

In 1873 he was part of an expedition into New Mexico and Arizona where he painted many sites including Canyon de Chelly in Navajo country.  On this trip, he suffered a stroke, which paralyzed his right hand and forced him to paint with his left.  It was said that this led to a freer style, lighter tone, and looser technique, all of which paralleled the growing taste of the American public.  A critic, Charles Caffin, wrote of his paintings that they were "pregnant with suggestion" and were a "search for the spiritual, poetic side of nature through an expressive simplification of composition and tone." (Lowrey 180)

In 1889, Alexander Wyant  moved to Arkville, New York in the Catskills, and died there three years later, in 1892.

He was a member of the Century Association and the National Academy.

Exhibitions included the following venues: :National Academy of Design, 1865-92; Brooklyn Art Association, 1867-92; Boston Arts Club, 1877-82; Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, 1879-81; Art Institute of Chicago; and Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Public collections that include Wyant's work can be found in the National Museum of American Art, Brooklyn Museum, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Toledo Museum of Art, Tennessee State Museum, and the Kentucky Art Museum.

Sources include:
Michael David Zellman, 300 Years of American Art
Carol Lowrey, "Alexander H. Wyant", The Poetic Vision: American Tonalism
Carolina Galleries

Biography from Karen L. North, Private Art Dealer:
Ohio born artist, Alexander Helwig Wyant was associated early in his career with the Hudson River School artists. He later turned to tonalism having been influenced by the work of George Inness, who recognized Wyant's talent and potential as an artist.

Wyant studied at the National Academy in New York, and in Germany with Fredrik Gude of the Dusseldorf school of artists.  He was a frequent exhibitor at the National Academy, Brooklyn Art Association, Boston Arts Club, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and the Art Institute of Chicago.  Many museums include Wyant's work in their collections such as the National Museum of American Art, Brooklyn Museum, Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Toledo Museum of Art among others.

In 1873, Wyant was part of an expedition into New Mexico and Arizona where he painted the Canyon de Chelly.  During this trip he suffered a stroke which paralyzed his right hand.  Wyant forced himself to paint with his left hand and his style became freer and looser with a more bright color palette.  The watercolor entitled: Summer Meadow is an example of his later style painted in soft, muted tones (painting in the former inventory of Leigh-North Gallery, Inc.) Summer Meadow was most likely completed while Wyant resided in the town of Arkville, New York between 1889 and 1892.  Arkville was an artist's colony in which some of the most notable tonalist artists resided and worked. Two other artists who lived and worked in the town were John Francis Murphy (1853-1921) and his wife Adah Clifford Smith Murphy.  It is likely that Wyant and Murphy and their wives became acquainted while they lived and worked in Arkville.

J. Francis Murphy's work was highly influenced by Wyant during the late nineteenth century.

Biography from Roger King Fine Art:
Alexander Wyant was born in Ohio to a family of itinerant farmers.  As a young man he was apprenticed to a harness maker and sign painter, but after seeing landscape paintings by George Inness in a Cincinnati exhibition, Wyant decided to become a painter.

He traveled to New York to meet Inness, who was impressed by Wyant's talent and helped him to secure the support of Nicholas Longworth, a Cincinnati patron of the arts.  Wyant studied at the National Academy and in 1865 traveled to Germany, where he studied with Hans Fredrik Gude.  He later lived in England,where he was exposed to the work of Turner and Constable. The influences of these two European traditions - the dark Romanticism of the Dusseldorf School, and the expansive colors and atmospheric effects of Constable and Turner - merged with the detailed naturalism of Wyant's Hudson River School background.

His post- European paintings were also informed by the Barbizon Scool, and embody a freer style that approaches impressionism.  After his return to New York, he painted in the Adirondacks and Catskills.  In 1873, during a painting trip to New Mexico and Arizona, Wyant suffered a stroke that paralyzed his right hand, forcing him to paint with his left. This development accelerated his already free style, and coincided with the changing American taste for looser paintings in lighter tones.

In 1889 he purchased a home in the Catskills at Arkville, a center for American Barbizon painters. Wyant had no shortage of commissions throughout his career and today is recognized as an important Tonalist painter.

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Alexander Wyant is also mentioned in these AskART essays:
Hudson River School Painters

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