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 Joseph Aaron Nesmith  (1857 - 1938)

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Lived/Active: Massachusetts      Known for: landscape

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Joseph Aaron Nesmith
An example of work by Joseph Aaron Nesmith
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
Biography from Whistler House Museum of Art:
The following is from Peter Kostoulakos, AOA, NEAA:  Fine Art Consultant, www.pkart.com

Joseph Aaron Nesmith
1857-1938

Joseph A. Nesmith — painter and businessman — was born on March 5, 1857 in the Nesmith family home in Lowell, MA and died on January 20, 1938 a few days after being admitted to St. John's Hospital in Lowell.   For all of his 80-plus years, Nesmith lived in the family home at 229 Andover Street and spent many summers at his place in Conway, NH.  His father, John Nesmith, moved to Lowell in 1831 and was the developer of the prestigious residential Belvidere district of Lowell.

Young Joseph was prepared for Harvard and, in 1880, he graduated with Theodore Roosevelt and Curtis Guild Jr.  — two classmates destined for political fame.  In the 1890s, Nesmith began managing the family estate and acquiring considerable amounts of property in Conway, NH that he later rented to summer residents.
 
As a pupil of Lowell artist William Preston Phelps (1848-1923), he developed an interest in the art of landscape painting, an avocation he successfully carried on for several years in conjunction with his real estate enterprises.  It has been said that Nesmith was often called America's "Painter of the Soil."  The Boston artist, Sears Gallagher, was one of Nesmith's closest friends.  Gallagher made many visits to Nesmith's summer home in Conway and they exhibited together at the Westcott Studio in 1894.  In addition to the Wescott Studio, Nesmith exhibited at the Twentieth Century Club in Boston; the Merrimack Valley Art Association; the Whistler House (now the Whistler House Museum of Art) in Lowell, MA; and several of his watercolors were displayed at the Boston Art Club in 1895, 1900, 1901, and 1907.

Nesmith's interest in art was the guiding force that gave him the initiative to revive the Lowell Art Association, an organization founded and incorporated in 1878 with Thomas Bayley Lawson (1807-1888) as its first president.  After Lawson's death the association became inactive for almost two decades.  In 1906, to see if there was enough interest to support an art society, Nesmith helped organize a large loan exhibition at Lowell High School.  The organizers were so encouraged by the large numbers in attendance and the favorable comments, they brought back the association with Nesmith as its president.

In 1907 Nesmith learned that demolition was planned for the house on Worthen Street where  James Abbott McNeill Whistler was born.  With the aid of a few art society associates, Nesmith  launched a campaign to save the house.  It was purchased by the Lowell Art Association as a home base for its art club and to preserve the historic structure.  In 1908 the house was opened and, at the reception, Nesmith was able to introduce his Harvard classmate, Curtis Guild Jr., governor of Massachusetts, as the principal speaker.  The Whistler House became a community institution, and Nesmith was its guiding spirit for many years.

With mounting business pressures, Nesmith had to terminate his presidency at the Lowell Art Association, but he remained a member of its board of governors until the time of his death.  He was a charter member and organizer of the Yorick Club of Lowell and the Lowell Literary Club. Literary club meetings were held at the Whistler House.  As stated in The Evening Leader, Nesmith wrote well and his "Lit" club papers were a model of human interest and literary clarity.


Sources:
Peter Falk, Who Was Who in American Art, vol. I, page 445; Davenport's Art Reference 2001/2002, page 1359;  Peter Falk, Boston Art Club Exhibition Record 1873-1909, pages 283-284;  Bruce W. Chambers, Ph.D, Hamden, CT; The Evening Leader (Lowell) Jan. 20, 1938, page 1- C8;  Lowell Historical Society notes; Whistler House Museum of Art files.



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