The biography of Thomas Waterman Wood (1823 - 1903)

Thomas Waterman Wood (1823 – 1903), American painter often depicted African Americans and their development during the Civil War. He also painted a number of portraits of prominent men in New York.

Wood was born on November 12, 1823 in Montpelier. His art career dates from 1846 when he visited Boston and was either inspired or taught by the noted portrait painter Chester Harding. Then in 1867 he exhibited a set of three paintings collectively entitled a Bit of War History at the National Academy of Design in New York. These genre paintings celebrated those freed slaves who had fought for the Union cause in the Civil War and they touched a strong chord in the public feeling of the day.

On the strength of these oils, Wood was made a member of the National Academy in 1871 and in 1873 he painted what may be his best work the Village Post Office (New York, NY Hist. Soc.). He was instrumental in the founding of a museum and several artists’ organizations.

He has been largely forgotten because he tended toward sentimentalism later in his career, but his works contain a wealth of information on 19th-century life. More than 200 oils and watercolors are in the collection of the Wood Art Gallery in Montpelier.

Wood studied with Chester Harding, with Hans Gude in Dusseldorf and in London. Wood was member of National Academy of Design since 1871 (he was the president from 1890-1900), American Watercolor Society (was the president from 1878-1887), New York Etching Club, Artists Aid Society (founder and president).

He died in New York, 14 April 1903.