Robert Reid (1862-1929)

Robert Reid (1862-1929)

A devoted muralist, stained glass artist and portrait painter, Robert Reid transitioned between distinctive stylistic periods within his career, enjoying both decorative compositions as well as more impressionist-inspired works. He was born in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, studied at the Museum School in Boston from 1880 to 1884, and was thus well aware of the Boston School tradition of portrait painting. In search of a broader education, he traveled briefly to New York to enroll in the Art Students League and then to Paris to study at the Académie Julian. Reid maintained a studio summer residence in Etaples-pas-de-Calais, Normandy, during 1886, traveled to Venice and Milan the following year, and ultimately acquired an apartment at 24 Rue Jacob in Paris.

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Studying under Boulanger and LeFebvre in Paris, Reid endured a grueling academy schedule, but was ultimately rewarded when his critical teacher ranked his painting third among the work of his 250 classmates. This was just the beginning of Reid’s accolades as many of the early landscapes and genre works from this period earned him inclusion with the Paris Salon, just one of a long list of venues where Reid would exhibit over the course of his career. Other prestigious venues would include the Boston Art Club, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the Corcoran Galleries and the National Academy of Design, where he became a full member in 1906.

Returning from abroad, Reid settled in New York in 1889 and fully developed his own Impressionist style. Within ten years he would become the youngest member of “The Ten,” a group of American Impressionists that included Childe Hassam, J. Alden Weir, and Frank Benson. Protesting the commercial nature of the Society of American Artists, these ten artists resigned from the organization and exhibited together on the first of many occasions at the Durand-Ruel Gallery in New York. Their exhibitions would later travel to the Montross Gallery and even to the Saint Botolph Club of Boston, until the group’s dissolution around 1919.  

Reid took on teaching positions at the Art Students League and Cooper Union School during the 1890s, supplementing his career as a professional painter and muralist. He worked so incessantly at his art that his wife actually filed for divorce in 1919 when she could no longer tolerate his extreme dedication. His murals, in particular, occupied a substantial amount of his time, with local examples of his efforts remaining today at the Boston State House and the H. H. Rogers Memorial Church in Fairhaven. He also became known for his decorative pictures of stylishly dressed women with flowers, and for his later “portrait impressions,” or distillations of the portrait, in which he broadly and quickly indicated the essential forms and features of his sitters on neutral buff canvases. 

Robert Reid was honored with a one man exhibition at the Grand Central Galleries in New York in 1929; luckily, the artist was able to view the show just prior to his death that same year. Today his works can be found in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Gallery, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and countless other public and private collections across the country.

References: William H. Gerdts, American Impressionism; Evelyn Marie Stuart, “Finished Impressions of a Portrait Painter” in Fine Arts Journal 36; and Helene Barbara Weinberg, “Robert Reid: Academic Impressionist” in Archives of American Art Journal 15; Henry W. Goodrich, “Robert Reid and his Work,” The International Studio, Feb. 1909; William Gerdts, Ten American Painters.

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