Willard Leroy Metcalf USA

7-1-1858 Lowell, USA - 3-9-1925 New York, USA

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Metcalf, Willard Leroy

Born into a working-class family, Willard Leroy Metcalf began painting in 1874. In 1876 he opened a studio in Boston, and received a scholarship at the Boston Museum school, where he studied until 1878. In 1882 he held an exhibition at the J. Eastman Chase Gallery in Boston, the sales from which financed a study trip abroad.

Willard Leroy Metcalf left for Europe in September 1883, and did not return to the United States until late 1888. During that time he traveled and painted, studying first in Paris with Gustave Boulanger and Jules-Joseph Lefebvre. In the winter of 1884 he apparently met John Twachtman in Paris, and painted at Grez-sur-Loing alongside other American artists, including Theodore Robinson. His landscapes at this time were traditional renditions of peasant scenes, in the manner of Jean Millet. By 1886 Metcalf was painting in Giverny, evidently the first American painter to visit there.

Upon his return to the United States Willard Leroy Metcalf after living briefly in Philadelphia, in 1890 opened a studio in New York, working for several years as a portrait painter, illustrator, and teacher. At the time Metcalf led a lavish social life that included heavy drinking.

In 1899 Metcalf joined his friends Robert Reid and Edward Simmons in painting murals for a New York courthouse; in this genre he was no more successful than he had been as an illustrator and portraitist.

In preparation for a mural commissioned by a tobacco company, Willard Leroy Metcalf traveled to Havana, Cuba in 1902, to make painted studies. That year he also produced a series of notable landscapes, including The Boat Landing and Battery Park-Spring. These works were characterized by a new freshness of execution and lightness of palette. By 1905, at the encouragement of his friend Childe Hassam, he began summering in Old Lyme, working as both painter and teacher. His expertly handled, subtle views of the New England landscape met with steady critical and financial success.

Between 1909 and 1920 Willard Leroy Metcalf often spent the winters at Cornish, New Hampshire, where he produced many snow-laden landscapes. Metcalf continued to hold one-man shows in New York and Boston. In 1913 he spent nine months painting in Paris, Norway, England, and Italy; in the U.S, Metcalf lived and painted in Connecticut, Vermont, and Maine, where in 1920 he painted Benediction (now lost), a nocturne. In 1923 the painting sold for $13,000, then a record price for the work of a living American artist at that time. Summer Morning, Giverny (1888), sold at Christie's for $422,500 in 2010.

Art Movement: Impressionism
Influences: Gustave Boulanger, Jules-Joseph Lefebvre
Traveled: France, England, Algeria, Tunisia, Cuba, Italy, Norway
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