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 William Henry Singer, Jr.  (1868 - 1943)

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Lived/Active: Pennsylvania / Norway/Holland      Known for: plein-aire landscape painting

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Ad Code: 3
William Henry Jr Singer
from Auction House Records.
Morning Mist
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Norway was the key to the life and art of landscape painter William H. Singer, Jr., and it was Norwegian artist Martin Borgord, living in Pittsburgh, Singer's hometown, who offered him that key.

Singer was born in 1868 of well-to-do parents involved in the industry of the steel-producing town. Singer would eventually inherit a large fortune that he would use to help the inhabitants of Olden, a Norwegian fishing village, where he would later settle and encounter the Nazis during their occupation in World War II.

But as a youth, his desire to be a painter was thwarted by his father who wanted Singer to join the family business, which he did for eleven years. While thus employed, Singer studied with Borgord and painted landscapes outside Pittsburgh. In 1900, however, Singer took the bull by the horns and left the steel business to paint on Maine's Monhegan Island. He had been encouraged to do so by two of his paintings being shown in the Carnegie International Exhibition of that year.

After brief study in Paris at the Academie Julian and with Jean Paul Laurens, Singer, his wife Anna Brugh and Borgord, who had traveled to France together, went to Holland to the small artist's colony in Laren known as the Dutch Barbizon. Just as dissatisfaction with the French educational emphasis on the figure over landscape had led him to leave Paris for Laren, so the flatness of the Dutch landscape eventually led Singer to the crucial discovery of his life in terms of a subject matter proper to his artistic inspiration.

Martin Borgord suggested they go to Norway. That did it. Singer was enthralled by the majesty of the fjords and massive mountain landscape, expressing their solitude and grandeur through the vibrant color and energetic brushwork of his Impressionist styleand an artist's soul completely fulfilled by, and in tune with, his surroundings.
He would build a mansion on the West Coast in Olden. In return for his generosity to them, the villagers of Olden helped the Singers against the intrusion of the Nazis until the artist died of a heart attack in 1943, two years before the War's end.

William Henry Singer, Jr. was a member of the Allied Artists of America, American Art Association, National Academy of Design, Pittsburgh Art Society and St. Lucas Art Association. His work is in the collections of the Art Institute of Chicago; Brooklyn Museum; Delgado Museum, New Orleans; Gemeente Museum, The Hague; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City; Musee du Luxembourg, Paris; Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia; Royal Museum, Antwerp. Belgium; and the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam.

David Michael Zellman, "300 Years of American Art"
Peter Falk, "Who Was Who in American Art"

Biography from Washington County Museum of Fine Arts:
Singer, founder of the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts in Hagerstown, was born in Allegheny, on the north side of what is now Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. His father was in the steel business of Singer & Nimick in Pittsburgh, founded by the artist's uncle, John Singer in 1854.

Singer had early decided on a career in art. His mother, Hester Harton Singer, encouraged his artistic pursuits, while his father was a Sunday painter and his grandfather George Singer had been a painter and gilder of chairs in Greensburg, Pennsylvania. In 1895, Singer married Hagerstown resident, Anna Brugh and in the summer of 1900, they went to Monhegan Island in Maine where Singer began painting full time.

In 1901, the couple crossed the Atlantic and Singer enrolled in the Academie Julian in Paris for several months. His love for the outdoors, drove him to leave the Academie to paint directly from nature. They moved to Laren, Holland, not far from Amsterdam, where a regional school of artists flourished. The couple began spending summers on the west coast of Norway and settled near the village of Olden on the Nordfjord, north of Bergen during World War I.

Singer's greatest artistic inspiration came from painting the Norwegian landscape. Although the first World War closed the era of painting abroad for most artists, Singer remained, painting in the style of the post-Impressionists long after it was fashionable. His work often shows the influence of Pointillism with its stippled coloration.

Glorifying the natural setting, Singer created beautiful landscapes throughout the 1920s and 1930s until his death in Norway during the Nazi occupation.

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William Singer, Jr. is also mentioned in these AskART essays:
San Francisco Panama-Pacific Exhibition 1915

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