The Recollections of John Ferguson Weir, Director of the Yale School of the Fine Arts, 1869-1913

The Recollections of John Ferguson Weir, Director of the Yale School of the Fine Arts, 1869-1913

The Recollections of John Ferguson Weir, Director of the Yale School of the Fine Arts, 1869-1913

The Recollections of John Ferguson Weir, Director of the Yale School of the Fine Arts, 1869-1913

Excerpt

Although American painting of the eighteenth century has received its full and rightful share of scholarly attention, the same does not yet hold true for the nineteenth. But times are changing. That great and exciting century can now be seen with some perspective and detachment. The shift in interest from the former to the latter period is indicated, for example, in contemporary concern with the battles and leaders of the Civil War. Slowly, but in like manner, nineteenth-century painting is moving into full focus.

It so happened that the lives of a single gifted family of artists, the Weirs, spanned the period between the Presidencies of Thomas Jefferson and Calvin Coolidge. It was a versatile and talented trio of father and two sons. Each by his work, teaching, life and letters left his mark on the development of American painting. Each knew, on intimate terms, the architects, painters, sculptors, educators and the V.I.P's of their time. Their observations and opinions are, therefore, of considerable consequence.

The senior member of this able and accomplished family was Robert Walter Weir (1803-1889) who was born, the son of a Scotch merchant of New York, at New Rochelle. After a brief business career he abandoned his father's following in 1821, and devoted himself thereafter entirely to painting. He was successful in getting to Europe for study for three happy years, living while at Florence with the Boston sculptor and Harvard graduate, Horatio Greenough. He settled in New York upon his return, becoming a National Academician in 1829. Five years later he was appointed to a post at the United States Military Academy at West Point, first as instructor of drawing and then as professor (1846), retiring in 1876 after forty-two years of service. Numbered among his many students were such figures as Grant, Lee, Sherman (who, incidentally, drew exceptionally well), and the painter Whistler. He married Louisa Ferguson and, after her death, Susan Bayard, becoming the father of six-

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