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 Grant Wright  (1865 - 1935)

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Lived/Active: New York/Illinois/Michigan/New Jersey      Known for: impressionist and realist cityscape painting, illustration, commercial

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Ad Code: 3
Grant (George Grant) Wright
'Grant's Tomb' painted in 1897
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Following is the obituary of the artist from a file contributed for use in USGenWeb Archives by Louis Paul Hennefeld

Peoria Star
"Grant Wright, 70, Dies In East of Pneumonia"

Grant Wright aged 70, one of the leading landscape painters in the country, and known to practically every older resident of Peoria, died yesterday morning at the North Hudson Hospital at Union City, N.J., following a short illness. 

Death was caused by pneumonia.  He was admitted to the hospital Saturday night, being taken from his home, 327 Park Avenue, Weehawken, N.J.

As a cartoonist and artist he worked on various Peoria newspapers, especially the Transcript in the days of Alexander Stone.  Moving to New York he engaged in commercial illustration as well as painting.His artistic ability, keen humor and sincerity of character won him the abiding
admiration and enduring friendship of every one with whom he came in contact.

Surviving are his widow, Mrs. Ethel Wright, nee Woodburn, two daughters, Mrs. Albert Henified [Hennefeld] and Mrs. Florence Allen; a son, George, and a brother, Charles, with whom he lived.

He was born in Decatur, Mich., the son of Thomas and Lucinda Wright. He attended the local schools there and later moved with his parents to Henry, Ill., where he continued his education, later moved coming to Peoria. He showed proficiency for art in his youth and his parents encouraged him in the work.  He went east and attended the National Academy of Design, New York City, from which he graduated.

Mr. Wright was an illustrator for several New York magazines. Many years ago he had a studio next to the late “Diamond” Jim Brady then foremost theatrical producer.

He recently gave an exhibit in West New York.  It was the first public showing of his paintings in 25 years, when an academy in New York City refused, for some unexplained reason, to allow his works to be shown.  The academy later made frequent requests for Wright to show his pictures, but he would not.

He painted the first cover of the old Smith Popular Magazine and had illustrated stories in many other periodicals.  He also did much freelance work for national advertising agencies, and until he was injured in an automobile accident three years ago, he was still doing illustration work.  For many years he designed and executed all the advertisements for the Joseph Dixon Crucible Co., of Jersey City, and had also done ads for the American Tobacco Company.

For the past few years he has been working with Lieutenant Edward Kirk of the Weehawken police department, who is writing a history of Weehawken. Wright drew all the illustrations and helped in the gathering of data.

He was well liked and had a temperament as easy going as the vocation at which he worked; that is; he was never known to worry about anything. While he was a patient at the North Hudson Hospital where he was taken after being struck by an automobile and suffered from two fractured legs three years ago, he kept other patients in high spirits with his lighthearted attitude toward his injuries.

In the passing of Grant Wright, older Peorians especially, will be sincerely grieved.  This city was his home for many years and here it was that he grew to manhood.  His artistic ability was manifested early.  It was second nature for him to trace in his drawings what he saw and believed worth while.  

He was a leading spirit in the old Peoria Sketch Club with Carl Pehi, now of New York, the late Charles T. Lambert, Charley Beatty, Hedley Waycott of Peoria, and many others who gained greater or less fame with brush, pencil or chisel. Later he was active in the Peoria Art League.

For many years he wrote a column on art for the Peoria Star.  He was a  friend of Editor and Mrs. E. F. Baldwin and also their daughter, Sidney  Baldwin – novelist.

He drew cartoons for the papers in old “chalk plate” days and wove into them his own keen sense of humor, good natured fun and, at times, keen satire.  He was a philosopher and an observer.

But his greatest pleasure was in landscape drawing, and in this he excelled through he did some fine commercial work, especially after he left Peoria and took up his home in New York City, has first studio being an airy penthouse on top of the New York Tribune building.  His home of recent years was with his brother, Charles also a former Peorian, 327 Park Avenue, Kings Heights, Weehawken, N.J., overlooking the Hudson River, the great ocean liner docks and the architectural cliffs of lower New York.

His home in Weehawken was unique and artistic, a medley of antique furniture, with many objects of interest and art he had collected. The veranda, with its magnificent view, was a favorite spot.  The front room had been converted by his genius into a Spanish castle interior, painted pillars and archways through which gems of Andalusian scenery were so artfully wrought that one imagined, while sitting there, that he was in the land of Ferdinand
and Isabella.

Of this home, Fletcher Pratt, writing in the Star in August 1933, said:  “The Heights of Weehawken across the river from the New York skyscrapers, and half a mile from the spot where a tablet commemorates the tragic death of Alexander Hamilton in a duel, hold a white house with a glassed in porch.  Both inside and out it is not at all the type of house one
associates with New York.  It is big and cheery, and cool in the summer heat; it rambles.  At the back is a big Dutch Kitchen with a magnificent rough stone fireplace, one end of which is shut off with a dais, and on the dais are easels and various drawings and painting materials.  It is in fact, an Illinois house, an Illinois artist’s house, and it looks it.”

Three years ago Grant met with an accident.  Both legs were broken, one in several places.  The doctors advised amputation of his right leg, but Grant would not consent.  He finally recovered but with one leg shorter than the other.  With aid of a cane he got around better than many a man with both legs.  His optimism never failed. 

At the time of the strike of elevator conductors he was caught in the offices of Fralick & Bates, the Star’ eastern advertising representatives, 500 Fifth Avenue.  The offices are on one of the
higher floors but Grant was able to make his way to the street level by stairs.  Newspaper photographers featured his achievement in the city publications.

Last winter a collection of paintings was shown at the Burkart Studio, and many of his old friends vastly enjoyed them.  Some were sold here and at the Y.M.C.A. is a splendid sample of his genius, presented to the association by Mr. Wright through Secretary Thomas Pearman.  It has won a lot of attention and compliment.

The death of Grant Wright brings regret to the older generation of Peorians who called him friend since the days when he designed letterheads and illustrations for J.W. Franks & Sons, printers and lithographers.  Grant was blessed with the spirit of optimism with a generosity that had no limit, a sunny disposition that turned clouds inside out for the silver lining, an
understanding, a patience and a charity that was of thought and word as well as deed.  His divine genius found expression in his work.  He was indefatigable.  He painted pictures and made sketches by the hundred, each stamped with the originality and keen appreciation which were a characteristic.

He was a great admirer of Abraham Lincoln and in his library were volumes on the life of the late president.  One of his reasons for his interest in Lincoln was because he resembled him in some way.

His friends here will unite in remembrance of the auld lang syne.  His pictures will remain, treasured by their owners, a benediction couched in nature’s loveliness.

Online Source:

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Magazines where referenced or in which examples of his art are shown:
American Bookmaker, Vol XII, #3 (March, 1891)
American Bookmaker, Vol XIII, #2 (August, 1891)
International Printer. Vol XXV, #3 (September,  1903)
International Printer. Vol XXV, #6 (December,  1903)
Association Exhibitions:
Art Institute of Chicago, Exhibition of Country Sketch Club of NY, March 1-24, 1891
Country Sketch Club, Fifth Annual Exhibition, 1902, Manhattan
Bronx Artists' Guild, Second Annual Exhibition, 1924, Bronx NY
Bronx Artists' Guild, Third Annual Exhibition, 1925, Bronx NY
Bronx Artists' Guild, Fifth Annual Exhibition, 1927, Bronx NY
Membership in Art-related associations:
Country Sketch Club, Manhattan NY and Ridgefield NJ (first President, also Secretary) (initial membership was former students of National Academy of Design...and included  artists such as William Glackens)
Bronx Artists' Guild, Bronx NY
Peoria Art League, Peoria IL (Charter Member)

Work by the artist is in the Bodleian Library, (Marconi Archives) University of Oxford, England.

In the book, Peoria City and County Illinois: A Record of Resettlement...' Vol 1 by James Montgomery Rice, it is written: "The Peoria Art League, previously known as the Sketch Club, organized in the winter of 1890-1.  Its charter members were Grant Wright, Carl Pehl, A.P Marston, L.A. Loomis, a pioneer artist of Peoria, Walter Laird, W.  Waycott, Jesse Watson, Albert Chilcott, Frank Goss, Orie Silver, 'Red' Klein, Robert Slack, William Kerr and Robert Weller."

Submitted by Louis Paul Hennefeld, grandson of the artist

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