Jules and Emily Bastien-LePage correspondence with Julian Alden Weir, 1880-1889
Scope and Contents
Contains correspondence by Julian Alden Weir, dating from between 1873 and 1929 in France and New York. The letters are primarily to Julian Alden Weir and concern his artwork. Some of the primary authors are Jules and Emile Bastien-LePage, John Singer Sargent, and J. Appleton Brown.
Language of Materials
Materials in English, with about twenty of the letters are in French.
Conditions Governing Access
Condition restricted; permission to use original materials must be obtained from the Supervisor of Reference Services. Patron should use microfiche copy.
Conditions Governing Use
It is the responsibility of the researcher to obtain any necessary copyright clearances. Copyright resides with the Weir family.
Permission to publish material from Weir family papers must be obtained from the Supervisor of Reference Services and/or the L. Tom Perry Special Collections Board of Curators.
Julian Alden Weir (b. 1852) was an artist who stood as a prominent figure in the recognition of early american impressionism. His father, Robert Walter Weir (1803-1889), and brother, John Ferguson Weir (1841-1926), were also of the same profession.
J. Alden Weir was born at West Point on August 30, 1852, the fourteenth child and youngest son of Robert W. Weir. He had a natural inclination for art, drawing and sketching regularly as a child even before he received any training in art from his father.
Following a stint at the National Academy of Design (during which he began a lifelong friendship with Albert P. Ryder), he went to Paris in 1873, where he studied with Jean-Lion Girime and was influenced to work directly from nature by Bastien-Lepage. During the next ten years he made several trips to Europe, seeking out Edouard Manet, three of whose paintings he purchased, and J.A.M. Whistler, whom he called "a first class specimen of an eccentric man."
Always interested in broadening the opportunities for the exhibition of paintings and in furthering the cause of American art, Weir was a founding member of the Society of American Artists. He also worked within the framework of the National Academy, which he joined in 1885 and served as president in 1915-1917. About 1890 Weir began to experiment with the technique of impressionism and two years later to teach summer classes at Cos Cob, Connecticut, with John Twachtman, his closest friend, and also an impressionist. Weir was one of the founding members of a group known as "Ten American Painters," or "The Ten," from their first exhibition in 1898. As a virtual "academy of American impressionism", one of their aims was to promote the works of American impressionists rather than accept French impressionism as the standard. Despite his association with the establishment, his work was personal and experimental, and he remained receptive to the newer movements in art. Late in 1911, as the Association of American Painters and Sculptors laid plans for the Armory Show of 1913, he was elected president in the hope that such an eminent figure would unite the many factions. When the press played up the hostility of the Association to the Academy, Weir resigned, although he contributed to the exhibition in 1913.
Weir's work was stamped with what the collector and art writer Duncan Phillips termed a "reticent idealism," at the same time that it reflected the variety of an inquiring, liberal mind. His prolific output included portraits, figure studies, landscapes, a mural decoration at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893, and work in stained glass, etching, and watercolors. His Idle Hours (1888, Metropolitan) won a $2000 prize from the American Art Association. It shows a relaxed but carefully composed interior flooded by light from the windows. The smoothly applied pigment contrasts with the broken brushwork and higher key of such impressionist works as The Red Bridge (1895, Metropolitan). Through his painting, ranging from the subdued grayed harmonies of A Gentlewoman (National Coll.) to the sun-flecked impressionism of Visiting Neighbors (1900-09, Phillips), the integrity of his quiet, individual vision is manifest. Other well-known works include The Orchid (1899, Mrs. Ian MacDonald), Portrait of Albert Pinkham Ryder (1902, National Academy of Design), and The Factory Village (1897, Mrs. Charles Burlingham).
J. Alden Weir married Anna Dwight Baker on April 24, 1883 and lived very happily with her until her death in February of 1892. The next year Weir married Anna's sister Ella, who took over the dual responsibilities of wife to J. Alden and mother to Anna's children. One of J. Alden Weir's children by his first marriage, Dorothy, later married the American artist Mahonri Young.
J. Alden Weir experienced ill health for the last several months of his life and finally passed away in his New York home on December 8, 1919.