The biography of Julian Alden Weir (1852 - 1919)

Julian Alden Weir (1852 – 1919) was a leading American Impressionist painter and member of the Cos Cob Art Colony near Greenwich, Connecticut. Weir became associated with first generation of American Impressionists and in 1898 was one of the founding members of “The Ten”, a group of artists dissatisfied with professional art organizations, including Childe Hassam, Edmund Tarbell, and John Henry Twachtman, who were reacting against the entrenched values of the National Academy and the Society of American Artists.

Weir was born and raised in West Point, New York, August 30, 1852. He was the youngest of sixteen children of Robert Walter Weir, a drawing instructor at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. His older brother, John Ferguson Weir, also became a well-known landscape artist who painted in the styles of the Hudson River and Barbizon schools and first director of the art program at Yale University.

Weir received his early art training from his father and shared a studio with brother. He received his first art training at the National Academy of Design in the early 1870s before traveling to Paris in 1873 to study under the noted French Academician Jean-Léon Gérôme and later at the École des Beaux-Arts. While in France he became good friends with Jules Bastien-Lepage. Under the influence of Bastien-Lepage, Weir learned to work directly from nature.

After trips to the Netherlands and Spain between 1873 and 1877, and summers spent painting in French villages, Weir returned to the United States and settled in New York, teaching at the Cooper Institute and the Art Students League. In the 1880s Weir moved to rural Ridgefield, Connecticut and strengthened his friendship with artists Albert Pinkham Ryder and John Henry Twachtman.

Weir encountered impressionism for the first time and reacted strongly: "I never in my life saw more horrible things...They do not observe drawing nor form but give you an impression of what they call nature. It was worse than the Chamber of Horrors." By 1891 Weir had reconciled his earlier misgivings about impressionism and adopted the style as his own. Through the remainder of the 1890s and 1900s Weir painted impressionist landscapes and figurative works, many of which centered on his Connecticut farms at Branchville and Windham.

By 1900 Weir was widely known and respected. That year he won a bronze medal at the Exposition Universelle in Paris. Four years later he won medals for both painting and engraving at the Saint Louis exposition. Weir remains today one of the most important American painters of his time.

In 1912 Weir was selected the first president of the Association of American Painters and Sculptors, but resigned a year later. Weir became member of the National Academy of Design and was a founding member of the Society of American Artists and the Tile Club. The recipient of numerous honors in his last years, including presidency of the National Academy from 1905 to 1917, Weir died on December 8, 1919, in New York.

Weir’s paintings are in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.; the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D. C.; and the Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Connecticut. Weir’s farm and studio at Branchville are protected as the Weir Farm National Historic Site, the Weir family continue ownership of the Windham farm.