Lines and Colors art blog

John White Alexander (update)

John White Alexander
When I first wrote about American painter and illustrator John White Alexander in 2006, not many image resources were available.

Since then, the internet has done that which it does best, grown at an incredible rate, and several additional sources of images for this wonderful painter have appeared, and I’ve collected some of them below; though I’m still frustrated in my inability to find much representative of his illustration work.

As a painter, Alexander was primarily a portraitist, most notably of women, and his portraits ranged from relatively staid to sweepingly dramatic, handled with bravura brushwork and rich colors. Though not as dazzling with a brush as John Singer Sargent or Cecilia Beaux (how many were?), Alexander’s portraits delight with luxuriously rendered fabrics and theatrically lit compositions.

There is a book available, John White Alexander and the Construction of National Identity: Cosmopolitan American Art, 1880-1915 by Sarah J. Moore, but I haven’t personally seen it.

The Library of Congress, for which he did murals titled “The Evolution of the Book” (see images on Wikimedia Commons), has a collection of his papers, the web version of which includes some of his sketchbooks.


6 responses to “John White Alexander (update)”

  1. Thanks for bringing this artist to my attention. I really enjoy his sense of light and the simplification/abstraction of his shadow shapes. I think I need to buy the book to find more examples of his work.

  2. This work is wonderful. You may enjoy contemporary art Bill Brauer of Warren Vermont.

  3. JWA was in my opinion the most interesting american art nouveau painter. He had such an eye for composition.

  4. The sketchbook was was surprising to me– the amount/act of cartooning (I had no idea he was also an illustrator) added to his oil painting oeuvre was pretty cool to see.

    Some of the pieces in the sketchbook looked like modern children’s book illustration– like Chris Van Allsburg in places.

  5. Thanks Charley, I am a great fan of Sargent and appreciate your introduction to Alexander. Since he was a contemporary of Whistler, I wonder at the lack of landscape material in his oeuvre. Since both Sargent and Whistler were both great exponents of the travelling sketchbook, I expected the same. JH

    1. Thanks, John.
      You will find a few (quite nice) landscapes represented in the online images for Alexander’s work, though it was apparently not a high percentage of his work:

      For the benefit of other readers, you can see John Haycraft’s superb architectural illustrations, sketches and paintings here: and my post about his work here: