William J. Whittemore (1860-1955)

William J. Whittemore (1860-1955)

William Whittemore’s portraits and genre scenes are evidence of the many artistic influences present at the turn of the century. With the onset of Realism and Impressionism, expressive figural paintings rose in popularity and traditional genre scenes became viewed as cliché in their sentimentality.Following Jean-Francois Millet’s (1814-1875) heroic renderings of lower class men and women in his Realist paintings of the 1850s and 1860s, American artists became increasingly focused on their own country’s laborers and poor. In this casual portrait of 1886, Whittemore glorifies a blue collar worker, a subject matter which he replaced later in his career with another topic -- sunlit Impressionist paintings of women in garden settings.

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Whittemore’s knowledge of European trends is not surprising based on his rigorous academic training and impressive exhibition record. Studies at the National Academy of Design under William Hart were followed by a year at the Art Students League in 1885. From there, Whittemore joined the Académie Julian for two years of training under Constant and Léfèbvre. He began exhibiting professionally while still a student and participated in National Academy shows for over sixty-five years. These were augmented by exhibits at the Boston Art Club (1886-1908), Paris Salon (1889), and the Art Institute of Chicago (1890-1928), among many other international venues. Also an educator of high esteem, Whittemore was regarded as a figure painting specialist and passed on his skills to a new generation of painters.

References: Who Was Who in American Art.

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