Willard Leroy Metcalf Biography | Oil Paintings

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

Metcalf, Willard Leroy

Willard Leroy Metcalf was born into a working-class family and was encouraged at a young age to develop his artistic talent, and in 1874 by age sixteen he began painting. His first teacher was the Hudson River School artist, George Loring Brown. Two years later in 1876 he opened an art studio in Boston, and also received a scholarship to attend the Boston Museum School where he studied until 1878. In 1882 he held an exhibition at the J. Eastman Chase Gallery in Boston, the money he made from the sales helped to finance a study trip to Europe. In 1884, he left for Paris and enrolled in the Académie Julian under Gustave Boulanger and Jules Lefebvre. By 1885, Metcalf was painting near Claude Monet's home in Giverny, the first American painter to visit there, along with fellow American painters Theodore Robinson, Emil Carlsen, and John Twachtman. His landscapes at this time were traditional paintings of peasant scenes, in the style of Jean Millet.

Upon his return to the United States in 1888, Willard Leroy Metcalf lived for a short time in Philadelphia, but in 1890 he moved to New York and opened an art studio, working as a portrait painter, illustrator, and art teacher. In New York, Metcalf had a busy social life and drank heavily, this combination affected his painting, and he was not very successful. In New York, Metcalf became an active member of the Society of American Artists and became acquainted with the great American Impressionist Childe Hassam. In 1898, Hassam and Metcalf, along with eight other artists, left the Society to form the group known as The Ten. 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 portrait artist.

Willard Leroy Metcalf traveled to Havana, Cuba in 1902, to make painted studies in preparation for a mural commissioned by a tobacco company. That year he painted a series of notable landscapes, including The Boat Landing and Battery Park-Spring. The trip to Cuba, with its bright sunshine, had affected his painting style, there was a new freshness in execution and lightness of palette. In 1905, with the support of his friend Childe Hassam, he started spending his summers in Old Lyme, working as both a painter and a teacher. The change of environment proved beneficial, for Metcalf experimented with loose brushstrokes and a lighter, higher-keyed color palette. His New England landscapes met with steady critical and financial success.

Between 1909 and 1920 Willard Leroy Metcalf spent the winters at Cornish, New Hampshire, painting many winter landscapes and continued to have one-man exhibitions in New York and Boston. In 1913 he returned to Europe and spent nearly a year traveling and painting in France, Norway, England, and Italy. In the U.S, Metcalf lived and painted in Connecticut, Vermont, and Maine, where he painted Benediction (extant), a nocturne in 1920. In 1923, Benediction sold for $13,000, (equivalent to US$180,000 today) and then a record price for the work by a living American artist. Summer Morning, Giverny, sold at auction in 2010 for US$422,500.

Art Movement: Impressionism.
Artists Influencing Willard Leroy Metcalf: Gustave Boulanger, Jules-Joseph Lefebvre.
He Traveled To France, England, Algeria, Tunisia, Cuba, Italy, Norway.
Artist Biography compiled by Albert L. Mansour at The World's Artist, with text adapted from Wikipedia.

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