Theodore Earl Butler


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James McNeill Whistler (1834—1903) painter and printmaker



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Painter. An Ohioan who married into Claude Monet's family, he lived during most of his career within the French painter's circle in Giverny. Although he adopted an impressionist style, he developed expressive possibilities quite different from his renowned father-in-law's. Born in Columbus, he studied from 1876 until 1880 at Marietta (Ohio) College. In 1882 he moved to New York, where he trained at the Art Students League before continuing on to Paris in 1885. There he studied at several schools and worked in the studio of Émile-August Carolus-Duran. In 1888 he summered in Giverny, where he settled in 1891, following a visit to the United States. There on a sunny day in July 1892 he married Monet's stepdaughter, Suzanne Hoschedé. His friend Theodore Robinson celebrated the event in The Wedding March (Terra Foundation for American Art, 1892), a brisk and joyous memento of the wedding party's promenade through the streets from the city hall to the church. (The year after Suzanne's untimely death in 1899, Butler married her sister, Marthe Hoschedé.) Already an impressionist at the time of his marriage, he produced many of his finest paintings during the following decade. As early as the mid-1890s, however, he demonstrated interests in postimpressionist directions. The Artist's Children, James and Lili (Terra Foundation for American Art, 1896) demonstrates his mastery of impressionist broken color and patterned pictorial construction, but its decorative surface and air of warm domesticity suggest the Nabi aesthetic that appears in many of his figural interiors of succeeding years. The strident colors and linear flourishes in some works suggest ties to the work of Gauguin and van Gogh. A series of sketchy landscapes, particularly shore scenes recording summers on the Normandy coast, play on abstraction and emptiness in a mode recalling James Abbott McNeill Whistler's example. In New York during and just after World War I, Butler produced local views. Generally loosely composed, some demonstrate high-keyed, almost fauve coloration, while others remain muted and suggestive of tonalism. After his return in 1921 to Giverny, where he died, he produced a series of colorful outdoor views emphasizing ornamental pattern. His son, landscape painter James Butler (1893–1976), worked primarily in France but also in the United States.

Subjects: Art.

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