Robert Loftin Newman


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Painter. His freely painted, suggestive figure compositions evoke mysterious and romantic content, usually drawn from literature or religion. Born in Richmond, Virginia, he lived there or nearby until 1838, when his family moved to Clarksville, Tennessee. Mostly self-taught as an artist, in 1850 he went to Paris, where he studied for a few months with Thomas Couture. In France again in 1854, he met Jean-François Millet through William Morris Hunt, painted at Barbizon for a few months, and copied works by Eugène Delacroix, whose expressive style and masterful use of color attracted his admiration. Newman worked as a portrait painter and drawing teacher in Clarksville before serving for a short time in the Confederate army during the Civil War. Subsequently, after visiting Baltimore and New York, he worked in Nashville. In the early 1870s he moved permanently to New York. He traveled to Europe in 1882, 1908, and 1909. Although supported by other artists and a few discerning collectors, he died in obscurity and poverty, perhaps a suicide. Newman normally worked on a small scale, emphasizing rich color and brushwork in dark and moody depictions of few figures in limited space. His introspective, emotionally potent paintings bear similarities to the work of his friend Alfred Pinkham Ryder and to the work of contemporary symbolists more generally. Disregarding careful finish, he often distorted figures or left them vaguely defined, enhancing his works' urgency. Like many of his religious subjects, Virgin and Child (Brooklyn Museum, 1897) reinterprets a traditional image with a poetic flavor that emphasizes human tenderness over divine presence.

Subjects: Art.

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