Ernest Lawson

American, 1873 - 1939
Ernest Lawson was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1873. He moved to Kansas City, Missouri in 1888 where his father was practicing medicine. Lawson enrolled in classes at the Kansas City Art League School, but without sufficient money for art studies, he accompanied his father the following year to Mexico City, where he found work as a draughtsman for an engineering company.

By 1890, Lawson moved to New York and commenced studies at the Art Students League under J. Alden Weir and John Henry Twachtman, who had an immense impact on the young artist's work. In the summers, Cos Cob, Connecticut with his friends and Art Students League teachers John Twachtman and J. Alden Weir and other impressionist painters at that art colony. The exposure the new ideas and impressionists at Cos Cob shaped the remainder of his career. Although he admired both of his teachers, Lawson revered Twachtman.

In 1893, Lawson traveled to Paris to study at the Academie Julian Academy Julian with Jean Paul Laurens and Benjamin Constant. In Paris, he shared a studio with Somerset Maugham, who used him as the prototype for Frederic Lawson in his novel, "Of Human Bondage." Traveling to Moret, he would meet French impressionist Alfred Sisley and his paintings during this period were glowing with color but thinly painted.

In 1896, following a second trip to Paris, Lawson moved to Washington Heights in Manhattan where no buildings obstructed the view of the Hudson River. Quite in contrast to the other members of The Eight, who were all considered social realists, Lawson was the only member who exhibited pure landscapes. Lawson painted his most important canvases during his eight years in Washington Heights.

As a member of "The Eight", Lawson participated in the landmark exhibition for the group at the Macbeth Galleries in New York. Despite painting mostly urban New York landscapes in a pure impressionistic style, which stylistically separated his from the works of Robert Henri, John Sloan, Everett Shinn and the other members of the Ashcan School, Lawson was invited to participated in the monumental exhibition in the 1913 Armory Show and the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exhibition. The 1913 Armory Show Exhibition, which Lawson helped plan, is incredibly important to American art history because it was the first large-scale introduction of modernist art to the American public.
In 1917, he was elected a Full Member of the National Academy of Design.

In his later years despite his renowned reputation, Lawson suffered financial difficulties. In 1936, suffering from rheumatoid arthritis which allowed him to paint only intermittently, Lawson settled in Coral Gables Florida. On December 18, 1939, Lawson was found dead on the beach. It is unclear whether he suffered a heart attack, committed suicide, or was the victim of an attack on.

Source:
Michael David Zellman, "300 Years of American Art"
Peter Falk, "Who Was Who in American Art"
Harold Spencer, (Intro), "Connecticut and American Impressionism"

Biography courtesy of Roughton Galleries, www.antiquesandfineart.com/roughton
Ernest Lawson attended Kansas City Art Institution in 1888, Santa Clara Academy in Mexico in 1889, the Art Students League in 1891 and finally Academie Julian in 1893. Lawson was a member of "The Eight" and one of the founders of the American Abstract Painters Society (AAPS) with whom he helped organize the 1913 Armory Show. Lawson worked in bold and bright color with heavy impasto style. He settled in Washington Heights, NYC in 1898 and painted some well known scenes of the Hudson River. Some of his unconventional subjects included squatter's huts and bridges on the Harlem River. He often painted a single subject in various lights and weather like an Impressionist. Lawson suffered from arthritis in his later years and moved to Florida in 1936. He drowned after an apparent suicide attempt in 1939.

Biography courtesy of The Caldwell Gallery, www.antiquesandfineart.com/caldwell
A noted Impressionist, Ernest Lawson became known as "the landscape painter of the Eight," the group at the forefront of early-twentieth century American art. Born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Lawson took an early interest in drawing. He began his formal training at the Art Students League in New York, studying under John Henry Twachtman. In 1892, he attended the Cos Cob School in Connecticut, run by Twachtman and J. Alden Weir, and developed his Impressionist style of painting. Lawson was heavily influenced by Twachtman's atmospheric abstractions and employed Impressionist techniques in his paint handling, generous use of light and color, and plein air observation of nature. He generally painted with a palette knife and used his fingers to build up the impasto, creating uniquely tactile surface textures.

Lawson first visited France in 1893, attending the famous Academie Julian, and later finding inspiration in the work of French Impressionist painter Alfred Sisley. After returning to New York, he began to associate with the members of the Eight: Robert Henri, John Sloan, William Glackens, George Luks, Arthur B. Davies, Everett Shinn, and Maurice Prendergast. Lawson was less concerned with social realism than were the others, but he shared their interest in depicting urban scenery. He beautifully portrayed Washington Heights, Inwood, and the Harlem and East Rivers, amongst other New York locales not typically considered picturesque.

Lawson helped to organize the major exhibitions of the early-twentieth century: the 1908 show of The Eight at MacBeth Galleries, the 1910 exhibition of Independent Artists, and the 1913 Armory Show. He won prizes from the Corcoran Gallery of Art, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the Carnegie Institute, the Salmagundi Club, and the 1915 Pan-Pacific Exposition and was elected a full member of the National Academy of Design. Today, Lawson's work is in every major American museum, including the National Gallery of Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Brooklyn Museum of Art, the White House, and the Whitney Museum of American Art.

Biography courtesy of Questroyal Fine Art, LLC, www.antiquesandfineart.com/questoroyal
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