Willard Leroy Metcalf (1858 - 1925)
Walking among the Wildflowers, Manchester, Massachusetts, 1877
Oil on canvas
9 1/4 x 12 1/4 inches
Signed and dated at lower left: W.L. Metcalf / 77
Watts style frame
John H. Surovek Gallery, Palm Beach, Florida
Thomas Colville Fine Art, New York, New York
Private Dealer, New York
Willard Leroy Metcalf was born in Lowell, Massachusetts, the son of a Civil War veteran and a violinist with the Boston Symphony orchestra. He began his career in wood engraving, and also took evening classes at the Massachusetts Normal School in 1874 and the Lowell Institute in 1875. Metcalf was a diligent student, and was also an apprentice to the noted landscape painter George Loring Brown (1814 - 1889) at this time. In 1876, Metcalf received one of the first scholarships at the Museum of the Fine Arts in Boston. Metcalf studied there from 1877 to 1879 under a teaching faculty that included Thomas Wilmer Dewing and William Rimmer.
The present work was executed while Metcalf was a student at the Museum School, and is a lovely example of his early more Barbizon and Dutch influenced style. Here, Metcalf depicts the picturesque details of a country scene. A child stands in a sun-lit field surrounded by old stone walls with the glinting steeple of a church and town off in the distance. Metcalf brightens up the more tonal palette of late summer grass and trees with a brilliant blue sky. His brushwork is textured and confident, with attention paid to the balance of the whole composition rather than precise rendering of details.
Metcalf found his way to France in 1883 to study at the Academy and was one of the first American painters to visit to Giverny in 1885, the home and gardens of Claude Monet.
Returning to the United States in 1888, Metcalf had his first solo show in the spring of 1889 at the St. Botolph Club in Boston, and began to truly find his own style. A trip to Gloucester, Massachusetts in 1895 with Childe Hassam led Metcalf to paint the American landscape for the first time since his European travels. Metcalf was a founding member of the Ten American Painters in 1898, a group devoted to American Impressionism, which caused much public comment and notice later in his career.