William Guy Wall

(c. 1792—1864)

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(1792–c. 1864).

Painter. A landscape specialist, he is known chiefly for watercolors of the Hudson River Valley and nearby areas. Combining topographical accuracy with poetic feeling, these anticipate Hudson River School work. His Hudson River Portfolio (1821–25) ranks as the finest early publication featuring American landscape. Born in Dublin, Wall trained as an artist before sailing to New York in 1818. Two years later he set off to explore the Hudson River. The resulting watercolors made his reputation when they appeared in the Portfolio as hand-colored aquatint engravings by John Hill. For several years after 1828, Wall lived in Newport, Rhode Island, and New Haven, Connecticut. From 1835 he resided in Ireland, except for the period between 1856 and about 1860, when he returned to the Hudson River Valley. In these later years, he worked primarily in oil. His final years remain obscure, and nothing is known about the circumstances of his death. Perhaps the most proficient watercolorist working in the United States during the early nineteenth century, Wall employed a technique grounded in British practice. The large (almost three feet wide) New York from the Heights near Brooklyn (Metropolitan Museum, 1823) demonstrates his skill in rendering a particular scene with delicacy, tonal unity, and respect for traditional principles of landscape composition. Characteristically, a luminous atmosphere hovers above still waters that reflect nearby objects, creating a vision of exceptional tranquility.

Subjects: Art.

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