Like many American painters who started their careers in the late 19th century, William McGregor Paxton began his studies in the U.S. — in his case at the Cowles Art School, where he studied with Dennis Miller Bunker — but traveled to Europe to pursue further study. There he attended the Académie Julian and the École Des Beaux-Arts, where his instructors included Jean-Léon Gérôme.
Though I don’t know much about their actual influence on one another, I find comparisons of Paxton and Tarbell particularly interesting. Both were students of Gérôme, both painted exquisite portraits, particularly of women, and both were fascinated with the work of Johannes Vermeer. Both Paxton and Tarbell produced portraits in the context of room interiors infused with soft light that distinctly show the the Delft master’s influence.
Paxton, even more than Tarbell, was noted as a portraitist and for his figurative work. He experimented with degrees of focus and softness of edges in an unusual way, partly out if his study of Vermeer’s method and use of optical devices.
Though he was not known for still life, I particularly like Paxton’s handling of vases, jars and other still life objects within his room interiors. William Paxton was married to painter Elizabeth Okie Paxton, who was noted as a still life painter.
The painting, Girl Sweeping (images above, bottom) is here in Philadelphia at the Pennsylvania Academy of The Fine Arts, where I have been struck by its quiet beauty on numerous occasions. It’s interesting to compare it to a painting in the Indianapolis Museum of Art in which Paxton took on the same subject.
[Note: some of the images in the resources below should be considered NSFW.]