Thomas Wilmer Dewing
Thomas Wilmer Dewing (1851-1938)
A painter of elegant women in carefully arranged settings, Dewing earned the respect and patronage of noted collectors, including two whose works formed the basis of important museum collections in Washington D.C.: Charles Lang Freer (the Smithsonian Institution's Freer Gallery of Art), and John Gellatly (the Smithsonian American Art Museum). Dewing's ethereal works, executed in oil or pastel, employ a narrow range of hues, with their subdued tones adding to the atmosphere of reverie and introspection expressed on the faces of his refined subjects. His models often hold books or musical instruments, adding to their dreamlike quality and reflecting certain late nineteenth-century views of femininity.
Though the Boston-born and Paris-trained Dewing spent summers in Cornish, New Hampshire, and in East Hampton, Long Island, the landscape elements of his compositions tend to be more generalized than specific. However, he cared greatly about creating a particular "look" in his works, and employed carefully selected costumes and props in his studio to achieve the desired effect. This attention to aesthetic detail also extended to the venues in which his pictures were shown, and he became one of the founding members of the Ten American Painters, who strove to exhibit their works in harmonious surroundings. The architect Stanford White was an advocate and close friend of Dewing, and frequently designed sophisticated frames to display the artist's images to best advantage.