Monday, December 8, 2008

W L Metcalf

Willard L. Metcalf

By
Armand Cabrera

Willard L. Metcalf was born in Lowell, Massachusetts in 1858. He began his art studies at the Lowell Institute and apprenticed to the painter, George Loring Brown. For the next few years, Metcalf illustrated articles on the Zuni and the Southwest for Century Magazine.

In 1883, with enough money earned from his illustration assignments, Metcalf traveled to France to study at the Julian Academie under Gustave Boulanger and Jules Lefebvre. After a few years in France, Metcalf slowly moved away from the painting style being taught in the Academie. He now embraced the Impressionist ideal that revered painting from life as the core of good painting. In 1888, Metcalf returned to America and prepared to mount a one-man show of 44 paintings---mostly studies executed in the open air style he adopted in Europe. While the show was praised critically, sales were low and Metcalf decided to leave Boston for New York.


In New York, Metcalf continued work as an illustrator and in order to provide a steady income, took portrait commissions. In addition, Metcalf taught at the Art Students League and Coopers Union.

In 1896, Metcalf won the Webb Prize from the Society of American Artist’s show. It was his last time exhibiting with this organization. Metcalf and his artist friends were becoming increasingly dissatisfied with the crowded settings and selection standards of the organization. They felt the standards had dropped too low and were compromised. Metcalf and other notable artists resigned and formed, “The Ten American Painters”. “The Ten”, as they were referred to by the press, were Childe Hassam, John Twatchman, Willard Metcalf, Frank Benson, J Alden Weir, Thomas Dewing, Robert Reid, Edward Simmons, Edmund Tarbell, and Joseph De Camp. In 1905, William Merritt Chase was asked to join the group, replacing the now deceased, Twatchman. They were the embodiment of the American Impressionist movement. “The Ten” held yearly exhibitions until 1919.

Metcalf struggled for continued financial and critical success for most of his life. It wasn’t until late in his career that his unique vision of the New England countryside took hold with critics and profited him financially. Metcalf’s perception was thoroughly American and was appreciated for its naturalism.

Metcalf’s success as a painter lies in his ability to depict the landscape with honesty and fidelity. His New England scenes are an intimate glimpse of a totally American ideal. He stayed true to his artistic beliefs in a time when proponents of modernism sought to marginalize established forms of style. This focus helped him create a personal style whose roots were founded in the tenets of American Impressionism that lasts to this day.

Willard Metcalf died in 1925.


Bibliography
Sunlight and ShadowElizabeth De Veer and Richard J. Boyle
1987

Willard Metcalf Yankee ImpressionistRichard J. Boyle
Bruce Chambers
William H. Gerdts
2003

Quote
Go out and paint what you see and forget your theories.
-Willard Metcalf

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