Willard Metcalf

Willard L. Metcalf

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.

Sunlight and ShadowElizabeth De Veer and Richard J. Boyle

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

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

Childe Hassam

Childe Hassam

Armand Cabrera

Frederick Childe Hassam was born on October 17, 1859 in Dorchester Massachusetts. His name (pronounced HASS um) is a corruption of the English surname Horsham. In his late teens, Hassam worked as a wood engraver. He later pursued illustration while attending the Boston School of the Museum of Fine Arts. In 1882, Hassam presented his first of many Solo Exhibitions. This show, which contained over 50 watercolors of New England landscape subjects, was held at Williams and Everett Gallery in Boston—one of the city’s oldest galleries. In 1883, Hassam made his first trip to Europe. On his return to Boston, Hassam held another show at the Williams and Everett Gallery with more than 60 watercolors from his travels.

Hassam was married in 1884 to Kathleen Maude Doane and the couple moved to Boston’s South End. It was here that Hassam began to paint the city motifs for which he would become famous. These early paintings, while not true impressionism in execution, shared the same concern for modern subject matter. The paintings show more consideration for subtle tonal variations than bright color.

With the critical success of his paintings and a steady income from illustration, Hassam decided to go to Paris in 1886 for further study. He and his wife settled in Montmartre near Paris and Hassam enrolled in the Academie Julian where he studied under Jules LeFebvre. After a year and a half of study, Hassam was dissatisfied with the Academie. He turned his attention to exhibiting in Paris and displayed his work at the Paris salons of 1887 and 1888. Participating in the Exposition Universelle of 1889, he received a Bronze Medal. In 1889, Hassam and his wife returned to America. He was 30 years old.

Hassam and his wife moved to New York City. Hassam became active in many art organizations. He founded “The Ten” which included Willard Metcalf, William Merrit Chase and Frank Benson, among others. Although Hassam downplayed his European experience, it significantly affected his painting style. Hassam’s brushwork became more broken in application and his palette lightened.

Hassam was considered the foremost proponent of American Impressionism during his lifetime. He garnered critical acclaim as well as great financial success. After World War I, Hassam’s finest paintings regularly sold for $10,000 or more and his income from painting sales was rumored to be $100,000 in 1920. He died in East Hampton, New York in 1935.

Childe Hassam American Impressionist
H. Barbara Weinberg
Yale University Press

Childe Hassam: An Island Garden Revisited
David Park Curry
Yale University Press

The Flag Paintings of Childe HassamIlene Susan Fort
National Gallery of Art

QuoteThe man who will go down to posterity is the man who paints his own time and the scenes of everyday life around him. ~ Childe Hassam

Frank Benson

Frank Benson

Armand Cabrera

Frank Weston Benson was born in Salem, Massachusetts in March 1862. He was the oldest boy of six children. The Bensons descended from a prominent seafaring family. Frank’s father, George, was a prosperous cotton merchant in Boston. Frank Benson had all the privileges of wealth with a good education and strong family and social structure. Frank excelled in sports and enjoyed hunting and sailing.

Frank developed an interest in art and at sixteen informed his mother he would like to pursue art as a profession. His mother convinced his father to allow Frank to attend the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. On his 21st birthday, Frank was given the sum of $1,000 dollars and a ticket to Paris to attend art school. He was also instructed by his parents to return home when his money ran out.


In Paris, Frank attended the Academie Julian under Gustave-Rodolphe Boulanger and Jules Joseph Lefebvre. He stayed in Europe from 1883 to 1885, spending the summer of 1884 in Concarneau, Brittany, painting outdoors with the artist colony.

When Frank returned to Salem in 1885, he worked as a portrait painter—to limited success. In 1887, he took a position at the Portland School of Art in Maine. He stayed there for only one year. He returned to Salem and married his childhood friend, Ellen Peirson.

Frank opened a studio in Boston and accepted a teaching position at his old school, The School of the Museum of Fine Arts. Frank painted portraits and figurative works and garnered critical acclaim and financial success. In 1898, Frank joined The Ten and began showing his work with the group in their annual exhibitions. He embraced his own idea of Impressionist technique, incorporating his fascination with figures and family. Commencing around 1900, Frank created iconographic female images of American Impressionism that are still being copied today–right down to the Victorian dresses and hats. His new style used a lighter palette and looser brushwork. These paintings, executed outdoors, secured his ultimate success.

After the 1920’s, Frank continued his oil painting. He also turned to etching and watercolors depicting wildlife, hunting and fishing motifs. In his life, Frank won more medals for his work than any other American artist. He died in 1951 at the age of 89 in Salem, Massachusetts.

BibliographyFrank W. Benson American ImpressionistFaith Andrews Bedford

QuoteThose things which you do when you are freshly inspired and excited by the beauty of what you are seeing before you are important things.~Frank Benson