Robert Lewis Reid

American, 1862 - 1929
Robert Lewis Reid was born in 1862 in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, to an old New England family. Tradition and history, therefore, were important aspects of his early education. His father was the founder of Edward Place School for Boys, and the intellectual environment of his childhood heavily influenced his later work. Reid briefly attended the Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, before enrolling in the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, where he studied under Otto Grundmann, alongside Edmund Tarbell and Frank W. Benson.

Reid moved to New York in 1884, enrolling at the Art Students League for a year before leaving for Paris to attend the Académie Julian. At the Académie Julian, he studied with Gustave Boulanger and Jules-Joseph Lefebvre. During the summer months, Reid frequented the northern coastal town of Étaples, where he executed figure studies and painted peasant scenes. After two years of traditional instruction at the Académie, he left Paris for Italy, where he immersed himself in the Renaissance masterpieces of Venice, Florence, Rome and Naples. Most of the works Reid completed while abroad have been lost; however, catalogues from the Paris Salons of 1887 and 1888 indicate that he concentrated on religious subject matter during this brief period, most likely in response to French Symbolism.

Reid returned to New York in 1889, supporting himself as a portraitist and taking positions at the Art Students League and the Cooper Union as an instructor. Later that year, he was granted acceptance to the Society of American Artists for his composition Death of the First Born (ca. 1888). His works from the years following his return to New York illustrate an inclination towards decorative painting, an interest that would lead him to become the preeminent muralist of the Impressionist movement.

In 1893, Reid completed a mural for the dome of the Liberal Arts Building of the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago, where he worked alongside Julian Alden Weir and Edward Simmons. Reid executed his mural commissions in a unique style that combines classical academic mural-painting traditions with Impressionism. He was among the Impressionist painters of the Society of American Artists who seceded in 1897 to form the Ten American Painters.

Around the turn of century, Reid devoted himself entirely to mural painting, and his commissions included panels for the Boston State House. These panels for the City of Boston depict decisive moments in the Commonwealth’s history, including James Otis Delivering his Speech against the Writs of Assistance, Paul Revere’s Ride and the Boston Tea Party. In 1905, Reid returned to easel painting, but his style had undergone significant changes during his period of mural painting, illustrating a movement towards Naturalism. The majority of his easel works depict his preferred motifs: the New England landscape or elegantly dressed young women surrounded by flowers.

Reid was granted full Academician status by the National Academy of Design in 1906, the same year he executed a series of stained glass windows for the Unitarian Memorial Church in Fairhaven, Massachusetts, as well as panels for the nave of the Church of St. Paul the Apostle in New York City. He continued to receive mural commissions throughout his career, including decorative works for the Congressional Library in Washington, D.C., and the Appellate Court House in New York. Following in his father’s footsteps, Reid remain a devoted educator for the entirety of his career, establishing the Broadmoor Art Academy in Colorado Springs in 1919.

Sadly, in 1926, Reid contracted polio, which forced him to learn to paint with his left hand. He suffered greatly towards the end of his life; in pain, and unable to paint as a result of his disease, Reid died in 1929 in Clifton Springs, New York.
Robert Lewis Reid was one of America's most celebrated Impressionists, whose work changed the course of nineteenth-century painting. Reid studied at the Boston Museum School and the Academie Julian in Paris, where he developed his cosmopolitan approach to portraiture and landscape. Back in New York, he became one of the founding members of the Ten American Painters, the group at the head of the American Impressionist movement. The Ten included John Henry Twachtman, J. Alden Weir, Frank W. Benson, and Childe Hassam; Reid was the figurative specialist in the group. He painted prominent murals for several world fairs and won countless honors over the course of his career, including prizes from the National Academy of Design, medals from the Corcoran Gallery Biennials, and the gold medal from the Paris Exposition of 1900. Today, his work is in the nation's best museums, including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Brooklyn Museum of Art, the National Gallery of Art, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and The White House.

Biography courtesy of Questroyal Fine Art, LLC,
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