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Willard Leroy Metcalf | The Ten American painters Group




Willard Leroy Metcalf (1858-1925) was born in Lowell, Massachusetts. His family moved to a farm in Maine in 1863, but eventually returned to Massachusetts, purchasing a home in Cambridgeport in 1872. Metcalf's parents, themselves artistically inclined, early recognized their son's talents and encouraged his proper training. He served first as an apprentice to a wood engraver and later as a student of George Loring Brown (1814-1889), a portrait and landscape painter of considerable reputation at the time. Metcalf also took evening life drawing classes at the Lowell Institute and was the first student to receive a scholarship to the Museum of Fine Arts school, which he attended from 1877-1878.

The careful draughtsmanship that Metcalf learned as a student in Boston served him well when he was commissioned to illustrate series of stories about the Zuni Indians. The fruits of his sojourns in New Mexico and Arizona appeared in Harper's Magazine and Century Magazine in 1882 and 1883. For the next twenty years the artist would continue to earn a portion of his living as an illustrator of books and magazines.

From 1883-1889 Metcalf lived in France where he studied at the Academie Julian under Gustave Boulanger (1824-1890) and Jules Joseph Lefebvre (1836-1911). He traveled through Brittany and Normandy beginning in 1884, sketching and painting near the villages of Pont-Aven and Grez-su-Loing, and within a few years frequenting Giverny with several American colleagues, including Theodore Robinson. Visiting North Africa during the winter of 1887 Metcalf discovered the subject that inspired him to paint Marche de Kousse-Kousse a Tunis, which received an honorable mention at the Paris Salon the following year.

Upon returning to the United States, Metcalf lived briefly in Boston, then settled in New York City. In addition to painting and illustrating, he taught for a short time at the Art Students League and for ten years at the Cooper Union. On the advice of Childe Hassam, Metcalf visited Gloucester, Massachusetts in 1895. One of the paintings Gloucester Harbor (Mead Art Museum, Amherst College, Amherst, Massachusetts) produced at that time was awarded the Webb Prize when it was included in a group of his works shown at the Society of American Artists the following year. By this time, in addition to his experiences in France, Metcalf had had considerable exposure to the light-filled, loosely-brushed landscapes of Hassam, John Twachtman and Julian Alden Weir, and was beginning to move away from his more academic style. These three artists along with Metcalf and six others withdrew from the Society of American Artists in 1897 in order to exhibit together as a group that became known as The Ten.



In 1904, disenchanted with his personal and professional life, Metcalf retreated from the city and went to stay with his parents in Clark's Cove, Maine, near Boothbay and the Damariscotta River. This highly productive visit brought about a turning point in the artist's career. He seemed to develop a greater sensitivity to the natural world around this time and began producing the lush New England landscapes for which he would become best known. Although not as poetic or ethereal as his friend Twachtman's representations of the brooks, fields, and woods, Metcalf's paintings effectively captured the beauty and serenity of his surroundings during every season and under varied climatic conditions. Despite his use of the divided brushstrokes and bright palette of the impressionists, his images continued to emphasize three-dimensional form, and fidelity to the natural subject.

By the end of 1904 Metcalf once more had a studio in New York City from which he travelled to several locations in the Northeast. A favorite working area for him was Old Lyme, Connecticut with its thriving artist's colony. Many of the painters gathered there at the boarding house of Miss Florence Griswold, depicted in Metcalf's May Night (1906, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.), a painting which won him a gold medal when it was first exhibited at the Corcoran Gallery. Another prefered subject was the hills of Cornish, New Hampshire, first visited by the artist in 1909 and returned to several times in the next decade.
Metcalf continued to receive numerous awards as a mature artist, including a gold medal at the Panama Pacific Exposition in 1915. Although he was plagued by poor health, excessive drink, and personal failure toward the end of his life, he produced some of his strongest works in these years. Metcalf died on 8 March 1925 in New York City. [This is an edited version of the artist's biography published, or to be published, in the NGA Systematic Catalogue] /© National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.

































Willard Leroy Metcalf (1858-1925) è stato un pittore Statunitense. Fu un artista che dall'accademismo giunse ad abbracciare l'impressionismo, venendo poi a far parte dei Ten American Painters. Si dedicò prevalentemente ai paesaggi.
Willard Metcalf nacque da una famiglia di operai e trascorse l'infanzia in una fattoria del Maine. Iniziò poi la sua formazione artistica presso uno scultore in legno di Boston. In seguito il pittore paesaggista George Loring Brown divenne il suo primo maestro e con lui Metcalf passò i mesi estivi nelle Montagne Bianche del New Hampshire dove realizzò i suoi primi lavori sul paesaggio. Qualche anno dopo fu uno dei primi borsisti della Scuola del Museo di Belle arti di Boston.
Grazie al suo interesse per gli uccelli, e grazie soprattutto al suo talento, nel 1881 partecipò ad una spedizione nel sud-ovest degli Stati Uniti. In Nuovo Messico e in Arizona realizzò numerose illustrazioni per le riviste Harpers e Century, che ebbero un vivo successo.
Questi pur modesti successi permisero comunque a Metcalf di partire nel 1883 per Parigi e a iscriversi all'Académie Julian, dove seguì i corsi di Gustave Boulanger e di Jules Joseph Lefebvre. Metcalf studiò accuratamente tutte le scuole e le tendenze della pittura francese dell'800: oltre all'accademismo, che nel paesaggio si esprimeva prevalentemente nella Scuola del Barbizon, studiò a fondo l'impressionismo e le sue derivazioni. Visitò l'Inghilterra e diverse località della Francia: Grez-sur-Loing, Pont-Aven e Giverny, primo americano a recarsi in quel luogo, dove fondò, assieme a Theodore Robinson e ad alcuni amici una colonia di artisti americani molto vicini a Claude Monet.
Durante un viaggio in Tunisia e in Marocco (1887) Metcalf dipinse delle scene di strade tipiche e l'anno seguente, al Salon di Parigi, il suo quadro sul mercato arabo fu particolarmente apprezzato.
Il ritorno in patria, a Boston, avvenne nel 1888 e le sue opere, esposte al St. Botolph Club, incontrarono il favore dei critici.
Nel 1892 Metcalf si stabilì a New York. In quel periodo egli si guadagnava da vivere facendo illustrazioni, insegnando pittura privatamente e vendendo qualche ritratto: il tanto atteso successo con i suoi paesaggi venne solo nel 1896. Con il suo quadro "Il Porto di Gloucester", esposto alla mostra annuale della "Società degli artisti americani", di cui faceva parte, ottenne il prestigioso Webb's Prize.
Da quel momento Royal Corissoz, influente critico d'arte del "New York Daily Tribune", divenne un fervente ammiratore di Metcalf e a più riprese pubblicò articoli monografici su di lui.
L'anno seguente, assieme ad altri nove pittori appartenenti alla Società degli artisti, si dimise da quest'ultima per protestare contro l'eccessiva mercificazione dell'arte e fondò con gli altri il gruppo dei Ten American Painters.
Nel 1899 lavorò agli affreschi della Courthouse di New York a fianco degli amici Robert Reid e Edward Simmons, ma senza particolare soddisfazione. In quell'occasione ebbe come modella Marguerite Beaufort Hailé, che poi sposò nel 1903.
Dal 1906 il successo di pubblico che i suoi paesaggi ottenevano aumentò. I soggetti che Metcalf preferiva erano le viste del Berkshire, di Cornish, di Casco Bay, di Springfield e della penisola di Damariscotta, nel Maine.
A New York Metcalf fu Istruttore d'arte nella Woman Art School, alla Cooper Union e alla Art Students League e nel 1893 fu accolto membro dall'American Watercolor Society.
Nel 1925, a 66 anni, un attacco di cuore ne concluse improvvisamente l'esistenza.