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.
Paxton was a founding member of The Guild of Boston Artists, along with Frank Weston Benson and Edmund Charles Tarbell.
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.]
Met Museum (high-resolution image above, top), also here
Indianapolis Museum of Art
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Artists and Art
Detroit Institute of Arts
Bonhams, and here
Oil Color Palettes (list of his colors)
Bio on Wikipedia
Artcyclopedia, additional links
4 Replies to “William McGregor Paxton”
He was inspired by Vermeer. Tell me who isn’t.
Most artists don’t demonstrate the influence of Vermeer in their own paintings as openly as did Paxton and Tarbell.
Thanks for the link. (For the benefit of other readers, it’s a slideshow style overview of some of Paxton’s paintings.)
Really love the painting of the woman by the brown door. Great pattern of darks and lights.
This is a beautiful site.
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