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Thomas Buford Meteyard (1865-1928): Travels Through Impressionism

October 25, 2017—February 24, 2018

Thomas Buford Meteyard (1865-1928), Self-Portrait, ca. 1894, Watercolor. Private collection, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Thomas Buford Meteyard (1865-1928), Self-Portrait, ca. 1894, Watercolor. Private collection, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Thomas Buford Meteyard was born in Rock Island, Illinois, but following his father’s early death in 1868, the future artist’s widowed mother, Marion Lunt Meteyard moved with him to Chicago. Marion was herself an educator, poet, musician, and historian, and as her son matured, she introduced him to Chicago’s cultural life: lectures, concerts, exhibitions, and theatrical performances. When Tom was sixteen, he and his mother moved to native Massachusetts where, in Boston, Cambridge, and particularly at Scituate, she had relatives, some of whom were also writers and poets. Tom studied for a brief time at Harvard and, while there and later, met a number of emerging artists and poets, some of whom, notably the poets Bliss Carman and Richard Hovey, became life-long friends.

In 1888, with his mother’s support and companionship, Meteyard followed the great late-nineteenth-century artistic migration to Europe, first to London and then, in 1889, to Paris. There, Meteyard entered the atelier of the master academic painter Léon Bonnat (1833-1922), while also studing with Alfred Phillippe Roll (1846-1919) and Auguste-Joseph Delecluse (1855-1928). Meteyard continued to travel, to England, Ireland, and throughout the continent, and in the early 1890s, joined  the international artists’ colony at Giverny, just north of Paris. Like so many other artists, including the Americans Robert Vonnoh (1858-1933), Lilla Cabot Perry (1848-1933), and John Leslie Breck (1859-1899), Meteyard was attracted to Giverny by its natural beauty and by the presence there of Claude Monet (1840-1926). Predictably, Meteyard was influenced by the Impressionists and, like them, took a keen interest in the aesthetics of Asian art. But he also developed talents in the graphic arts and was associated with the Symbolists, such as the poet Stéphane Mallarmé (1842-1898). Meteyard flourished in Europe’s bohemian milieu and was one of the first Americans to have his work included in the early Post-Impressionist exhibitions.

Meteyard returned to the United States in 1893, settling again in Massachusetts. He spent most of the next sixteen years there, at Scituate, with frequent trips to Boston and elsewhere. Throughout, he remained a prolific and versatile painter, equally adept at oil, watercolor, and woodcut. He was active as an illustrator and designer during these years, notably for the Arts-and-Crafts periodicals The Knight Errant and Mahogany Tree, both of which were published in Boston.

In 1906, Meteyard returned to England, a move that, following his marriage in 1910 to British-born Isabel Barber, became permanent. By that time, Meteyard’s work was being widely recognized. His work was included in exhibitions of the American Water Color Society and the Society of American Artists in New York; at the Boston Art Club and the Copley Society in Boston; and in the art galleries of the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. He had important solo exhibitions at Doll & Richards Gallery in Boston, the Galerie Georges Petit in Paris, and West’s Gallery and the Fine Art Society in London.

The exhibition at the Boston Athenæum will include over fifty of Meteyard’s works, including paintings, watercolors, and works on paper, as well as books and other publications to which he contributed designs and illustrations. The exhibition will be accompanied by an illustrated catalogue with an essay by the exhibition’s curator, David B. Dearinger.