Gallery Artists > Ernest Lawson Biography :

Ernest Lawson (1873 - 1939)  Artworks >>

Ernest Lawson, one of the most important American impressionist* painters in the beginning of the twentieth century, produced a number of significant paintings during his last years in the Sunshine State. He was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia on March 22, 1873 and moved to Kansas City, Missouri in 1888. He began his art studies at the Kansas City Art Institute*, a private, independent college specializing in the fine arts and design founded in 1885. Today, The KCAI is an accredited institutional member of the National Association of Schools of Art and Design. Lawson continued his art studies after he moved to New York where he enrolled in the Art Students League*, an art school created to provide reasonably priced classes along with flexible schedules to students from all social classes and levels of artistic accomplishment. The Art Students League placed a large focus on innovative art such as American incarnations of French Impressionism, German Expressionism*, Ash Can* and Regionalist* art. There, he studied under American impressionist artist John Twachtman where Lawson was taught how to accurately capture the qualities of light found in ordinary subject matter as a crucial element of human perception. Lawson’s next studied in France to enhance his artistic skills. In 1893, he traveled to Paris to study at the Académie Julian*, a private art school for painting and sculpture. The Académie Julian provided accessible classes for all students and helped perfect Lawson’s unique impressionist art style. After some time, Lawson left classroom study for the south of France where he discovered his interest in plein air or painting outdoors. Greatly influenced by French impressionist Alfred Sisley, Lawson did not incorporate large amounts of French influence in his work. He stated, “French influence kills if taken in too large a dose -- witness most of our best artists who have become to all intents and purposes Frenchmen in work and thought”. Ernest Lawson’s work slowly began to reflect an interest in his development of an American perspective in highlighting the landscape and scenes of everyday life instead of the French romantic style of painting. By 1894, American impressionist William Merritt Chase labeled Lawson “America’s greatest landscape painter.” He made his debut in America in 1897 at the National Academy of Design*, the most important art institution in America at the start of the 19th century. The NAD set national art standards based on classical art styles rather than contemporary art styles. In 1908, Lawson joined a group who called themselves The Eight*, an influential and innovative group formed by eight American artists who shared the common goal of rebelling against the classical genre scenes of popular American painters and were interested instead in more eccentric and contemporary subjects. Lawson’s interest in Florida began with his love for the city of Coral Gables. Lawson was first introduced to Coral Gables when Katherine and Royce Powell, his close friends and patrons introduced Lawson to this exotic Florida city. He would frequently visit them in Florida and eventually permanently moved to Coral Gables. Most of his works were completed within 100 miles of the city where he enjoyed capturing the beauty in the city in all of its incarnations. Lawson’s interest in the area stemmed from the various species of wildlife and the exotic native vegetation and natives. His painting at this time consisted of strong, bold jewel-like colors applied in an energetic impressionist style of painting as he worked to capture the true beauty and atmosphere of Florida. Lawson is also known for his application of paint with thick strokes, often applied with a palette knife. These characteristics can be seen in his “Approaching Storm, Matheson Hammock, Coral Gables, FL, ca. 1930 in the Brown Collection at the Museum of Arts and Sciences, Daytona Beach, Florida and in Florida River Scene with Semino

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