Bassford was the son of a prominent St. Louis newspaperman, Homer Bassford. He attended Wyman School, then McKinley High School in St. Louis. In 1918 he enrolled at Hall's West Point School in Columbia, MO in preparation for entering the Naval Academy at Annapolis, but the end of World War I ended his military aspirations.
He attended classes at the School of Fine Arts of Washington University in St. Louis in 1919-20, where he credited Edmund Wuerpel and Fred Green Carpenter for their inspirational guidance. He was influenced by some of his father's artist friends, including Joseph Pennell and George McManus. For a time he drew political cartoons for his father's newspaper, the St. Louis Times. He met his wife Helen at the Dayton Art Institute in the 1930s. His early work included impressionist landscapes, seascapes of the Cape Cod area, and portraits of Missouri politicians.
He won awards at the Midwestern Artists Exhibition in Kansas City in 1933, the City Art Museum of St. Louis, and the Connecticut Academy of Fine Arts. He exhibited at the National Academy of Design, the Metropolitan Museum, and the Carnegie Institute, among others. In 1947 the Bassfords left St. Louis and bought a home in Provincetown, MA. He also maintained a New York studio, and became a fashionable celebrity and society portrait painter.
He taught at the North Truro School of Art on Cape Cod in the summers. In the 1960s he began spending the winter months in Palm Beach, FL, where he continued to paint portraits of high society sitters, usually women. His book, Painting the Female Figure, was published by Reinhold in 1967.
Syracuse University holds a Wallace Bassford Papers collection in its Special Collections Research Center. Measuring .25 linear ft., it includes correspondence, art reproductions, statements, and memorabilia from 1939-1968. The St. Louis Public Library has a clipping file on him in the Fine Arts Dept.
St. Louis Globe-Democrat, April 9/10, 1977, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Nov. 23, 1951, and American Artist, May 1955.
Basford Family website (birth and death dates)
Compiled and submitted by Mary Frechette, Fine Arts Department, St. Louis Public Library