Robert William Vonnoh

Artist Biography

Robert William Vonnoh was born in Hartford, Conn. but later moved to Boston where he would begin his career as an artist. Vonnoh attended the Massachusetts Normal Art School beginning in 1875 and, like many American artists, traveled to France to study at the Académie Julien in 1880. He returned to Boston for a brief period and taught at the Boston Museum School before crossing the Atlantic again, this time to settle in a studio at Grez-sur-Loing. While there he exhibited at the Exposition Universelle in Paris (1889; 1891) where he was awarded a bronze medal and at the Paris Salon (1889). Influenced by French and American Impressionism, his works exhibited an attention to the fleeting qualities of light, the atmospheric conditions witnessed en plein air, and the visible brushwork used to define his intimate landscapes and portraits.

Vonnoh returned to America and continued teaching, this time at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts where his students included Robert Henri, William Glackens, and Maxfield Parrish. He later married famous sculptor Bessie Potter. During his lifetime, his works were praised as “remarkable for their clever painting and good taste” as well as for exuding a “finer perception of the significance of things, a warmer sympathy with life, a keener spirituality.” Vonnoh was a member of the National Academy of Fine Arts and the Lyme Art Association. Today, his works may be viewed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh; and Art Institute of Chicago.
Theodore Child, “The Paris Salon of 1889,” The Art Amateur 21, no. 2 (July 1889): 27; Lucy Monroe, “Chicago Letter,” Critic 24 (March 17, 1894): 190; as quoted in William H. Gerdts, American Impressionism (New York: Abbeville Publishing Group, 1984), p. 121.

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