Thomas Wilmer Dewing

(Boston, Massachusetts, 1851 - 1938, New York, New York)
Thomas Wilmer Dewing began working in a lithography shop at sixteen. Soon he was proficient enough as an artist to support himself with illustration and portrait painting commissions while attending the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. By 1876, he had saved enough money to afford two years of study at the Académie Julian in Paris. Like many Americans abroad in the late nineteenth century, Dewing found inspiration in the British aesthetic movement, which valued beauty and romanticism in art. If Dewing was aware of the birth of impressionism during his stay in Paris, he took no notice. The strongest influence evident in his work is that of James Abbott McNeill Whistler, who sought to achieve tonal harmonies akin to musical compositions in his paintings.

Dewing returned to the United States in 1878 and settled in New York City. In 1881, he married fellow artist Maria Oakey, who is best known for paintings of flowers. The couple frequently collaborated, especially during summers spent at the artist colony of Cornish, New Hampshire. Dewing was a founding member of the Ten American Painters, a group that included American impressionists Childe Hassam and Willard Metcalf, who seceded from the Society of American Artists on the grounds that the organization had become too conservative. From around 1890, Dewing remained consistent in his preferred choice of subject, a lone female figure hazily depicted in quiet reverie, united by a single color. Refinement and harmony were his chief artistic aims. Works by Dewing are found in the collections of such institutions as the Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City; and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., among many others.

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John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

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