(1849 - 1925)
Dwight William Tryon was active/lived in Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut. Dwight Tryon is known for tonalist landscape, marine, nocturne, educator.
Biography from the Archives of askART
One of America's first Tonalist painters and much influenced by the Barbizon School of painting in France, Dwight Tryon
was also a long-time art professor at Smith College in Northhampton,
Massachusetts, 1885 to 1924.
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His characteristic canvases were muted, serene landscapes and seascapes
that were popular during his lifetime but faded in public appreciation
after he died. He applied his own techniques of infused light and
atmospheric effects. His work has been described as relaxing to
the eye and lacking the urgent vigor of many of his Impressionist
Tryon was born in Hartford, Connecticut and
raised in East Hartford. He showed early art talent but remained initially a self-taught artist. His
formal education ended at age fourteen when he began working in a
firearms factory to help support his widowed mother. He began
painting scenes of New England, often along the Connecticut River,
while working at a subsequent job in a bookstore.
In 1876, having achieved some success in the marketplace, he
sold all of his work for $2000., and he and his wife, Alice Hepzibah
Belden, went to France to study art and attend lectures at the Ecole
Beaux Arts. He also worked with figure painter Abbott Thayer and
with Jacqueson de la Chevreuse. The couple
traveled throughout France, Holland and Italy and spent a summer at the
village of Barbizon studying with French-Barbizon painter
Charles-Francois Daubigny. He also worked with landscape painter
Henri-Joseph Harpignes and J.B. Antoine Guillemet, both whom inspired
him to paint quiet pastoral scenes whose messages were suggestive
rather than straightforward realistic.
exhibited at the Paris Salon, and that year returned to New York City
where he opened a studio on 57th Street and began giving lessons.
Almost immediately, he earned the life-long patronage of Charles Lang
Freer, art collector and railway-industrial capitalist, for whom Tryon
did many paintings including a series of seasonal landscapes for
Freer's Detroit home. As a result, a large portion of Tryon's
work is in the Freer Gallery in Washington D.C. Another patron of
Tryon was Thomas B. Clarke, the first collector in the industrial age
in America to favor American artists over European.
opened a summer studio in Dartmouth, Massachusetts, a small fishing
village near New Bedford, and a few years later he and his wife built a
summer home they called the "Cottage". Many of his paintings from
that period are twilight and evening scenes in Tonalist Barbizon mode
such as The End of Day and Newbury Haystacks in Moonlight.
They show that Tryon was aware of the nocturnes of James McNeill
Whistler, who also was much influenced by the Barbizon School.
In 1885, he began his career at Smith College,
becoming Director of the Art School from 1903 to 1923. However, he was
there only several days out of each month because of his active
painting career and because of an agreement that an assistant would
handle the day-to-day duties during the week.
his style changed somewhat, moving from massy, somber tonalities to a
lighter coloration. His standard composition became "a patch of
meadowland, bounded by groupings of tall, graceful trees with wispy
foliage in the middle ground, bathed in the soft, ethereal luminositiy
of early spring or fall." (Lowrey 166) He also worked more in
pastels than oils feeling that pastel allowed him more creative
possibilities in the creation of beauty.
Tryon was an exponent of the American Aesthetic movement, committed to
importance of cultivating good taste through beautiful art and through
familiarity with quality, original works of art. At Smith
spearheaded the collecting of fine art from leading painters of the day
with whom he associated. He promoted the purchase of work of many
Tonalist painters including George Inness and Thomas Dewing
Just before his death in 1925, he
bequeathed $100,000. to the College for an art gallery, which was
designed in Georgian style by New York architect Frederick
Ackerman. The building stood until 1970, when it was demolished
to make room for a Fine Arts complex, something he likely would have
Michael David Zellman, 300 Years of American Art
Linda Muehlig, "Smith College Museum of Art" American Art Review, June 2004
Carole Lowrey, "Dwight William Tryon", The Poetic Vision: American Tonalism, Spanierman Galleries, LLC, (2005)
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