Dwight Tryon


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Painter. A landscape specialist, he is known particularly for intimate, uninhabited woodlands but also painted sea and shore views, as well as a few cityscapes. Occasionally genre elements animate his rural images. A leading contributor to tonalism, he made a specialty of lyric, atmospheric scenes, often featuring trees that form a flattened screen linking foreground and sky. Rooted in the Barbizon approach and the example of George Inness, his painting style also responded to the work of James Abbott McNeill Whistler and to aspects of impressionism. Born in Hartford, Connecticut, and initially self-taught, Dwight William Tryon painted New England landscapes and shore scenes indebted to Hudson River School principles before going abroad in 1876. In Paris he studied with a student of the romantic neoclassicist J. -A. -D. Ingres. He also benefited from acquaintance with several Barbizon painters, most notably Charles-François Daubigny, and closely studied the work of the recently deceased Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot. During summers he painted in rural locations in France and elsewhere, and in 1879 worked in Venice. He returned to New York in 1881 with a dark, moody approach that soon mellowed toward impressionism's lighter hues and shimmering brushwork. Within a year or two he established a summer studio in South Dartmouth, Massachusetts, on the shore near New Bedford. He continued to vacation there regularly after accepting a teaching position in 1886 at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. While remaining on the faculty for thirty-seven years, he also assisted the institution in developing its notable art collection. At his death, he bequeathed funds for the construction of a college art gallery, demolished in 1970 but replaced with Tryon Hall, the core of the Smith College Museum of Art. An important patron from 1889, Charles Lang Freer purchased many of Tryon's finest works, which peaked in number during the artist's most productive period, approximately two decades beginning in the late 1880s. As in the typically sensitive meditation Sunrise: April (Freer Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1897–99), these crowning achievements delight in delicate color harmonies, muted natural light, and indistinct forms arranged in ornamental patterns. Little interested to achieve representational accuracy in such works, Tryon sought rather to evoke the sentiment of nature through ideal compositions constructed from memory. He also began working frequently in pastel around 1890. After about 1910, he painted relatively little and because of illness ceased working altogether during the year before his death in South Dartmouth.

Subjects: Art.

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