Richard Gibson Wedderspoon

American, 1889 - 1976
Richard Gibson Wedderspoon, the son of a Methodist Episcopal clergyman who came to the United States from Ashroth, Scotland, was born on October 15, 1889, in Red Bank, New Jersey. His father's appointments to pastorates in Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C., made it possible for the young Wedderspoon to study at Carnegie Institute of Technology and the Corcoran Gallery of Art, respectively.

When a broken collarbone ended his hopes for a college football career, Wedderspoon turned to his drawing talents and enrolled in classes at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, in 1913. Like his teacher and mentor Daniel Garber, Wedderspoon received the William Emlen Cresson Traveling Scholarship (in 1915 and 1916). He also was honored with the academy's First Toppan Prize for landscape in 1917.3

Wedderspoon's most important influences were his two teachers at the academy, Garber and Henry McCarter. Later he joined Garber in the New Hope area, where he lived for more than four decades. A favorite student of Garber's, Wedderspoon was one of three young men depicted in the monumental Garber painting The Boys (Everson Museum of Art, Syracuse, New York).' He had no further contact with McCarter after graduating.

While attending the academy, Wedderspoon began to spend his summers in Bucks County, often as a weekend guest of Garber at his home, Cuttalossa. He also spent a year painting with Garber and wrote in his journal, "I got on very well with Garber. He seemed to like my work and my diligence." Some of Wedderspoon's close friends and contemporaries at the academy - Clarence Johnson, Charles Hargens, Stanley Reckless (later his next door neighbor), Lloyd R. Ney, Charles Garner, and Inez McCombs - also moved to Bucks County, most of them to settle in the New Hope or Solebury area.

Immediately after graduating from the Pennsylvania Academy in 1917, Wedderspoon enlisted in the army. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant and assigned to the Adjutant General's Department, Central Division, in Chicago, where he "served two whole years and never touched a brush." Following his discharge from military service, he began his Cresson scholarship (delayed due to the war) and studied in Paris, Switzerland, and Florence. In 1923 he began teaching at Syracuse University, where he was a professor of painting for more than twenty years, until 1946. In 1931 he was unanimously elected a trustee of the Syracuse Museum of Fine Arts (now the Everson Museum of Art). During the summers he returned to his house in Bucks County on Solebury Road, just north of New Hope. "If I can get two good canvases during the summer, I am satisfied," he said."

Wedderspoon experimented with a variety of styles. He is best known for impressionist landscapes similar to Garber's, with a focus on light and shadow. He was a skilled draftsman and combined sound painting technique with great delicacy and brilliant color.
He exhibited at many venues, including the Corcoran Gallery of Art in 1916; the Pennsylvania Academy from 1915 to 1920; the Art Institute of Chicago from 1918 to 1926, winning the Robert Rice Jenkins Prize for landscape in 1922; the Detroit Institute of Arts; the Peabody Institute, in Baltimore; and the Syracuse Museum of Fine Arts.

His first wife, Lorena, died in 1935. A year later he met Margaret (Peg) Walsh, a graduate of Syracuse University, who became his second wife. After he retired in 1948, the couple moved to Naples, Florida. In 1952 they sold their home in Solebury, but not long after, in 1955, they moved back to Bucks County, settling into a small cottage at 125 North Main Street in Yardley.
He also found a small studio to rent on Afton Avenue across from the old Yardley Library. He wrote in his journal, "I always started my paintings on the spot and only brought them to the studio for finishing touches. I sold more of my paintings in the Yardley community than any place I had lived." Wedderspoon was also active in establishing the Friends Meeting in Yardley.

During his last years, Wedderspoon developed glaucoma and spent most of his time at home listening to recorded books. Referring to his failing sight in his journals he said, "Rudyard Kipling wrote a novel called The Light That Failed. It was the story of an artist who lost his sight. Nothing could be worse. The best thing he can do is dream about the beautiful pictures he would paint, better than he ever painted before."

Wedderspoon died on February 15, 1976, at St. Mary's Hospital in Langhorne, Pennsylvania. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.

Biography courtesy of Roughton Galleries,
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