William Baxter Closson (1848-1926)

William Baxter Closson (1848-1926)

A native of Thetford, Vermont, William Baxter Closson began his career as a wood engraver, moving to Boston at age 18 to become an apprentice in the craft. From 1870 to 1890, the American school of engraving was at its peak, and he quickly made a name for himself, receiving an award at the Paris Salon in 1881. During this period, he became closely associated with George Fuller, whose mythical portraits and landscapes he often engraved. With the decline of woodworking, he took up painting, working in oils, watercolors and pastels at the Lowell Institute of Boston. 

Contact Vose about this artist
Read more about this artist...

The precise draftsmanship required of an engraver prepared Closson well for a career as a painter, while the liberation from the constraints of working in wood allowed his innate color sense to develop. His early works in paint were very experimental, but he soon acquired a highly individual, poetic style often likened to that of master colorist Adolph Monticelli. Closson never aligned himself with a particular school or discipline, thus giving his imagination free rein. His idyllic, fanciful scenes of young women and children are rhythmic and graceful, harkening to an era of innocence and pleasure. Almost amorphous, his figures come alive in playful hues, often applied with dramatic sweeps of a palette knife. According to noted Boston critic William Howe Downes, Closson’s works typically combined “grace and buoyancy of action, pleasing play of line, and an agreeable palette, rich yet not deep,…in a loose and fluent style.” [1]

Vose Galleries held three solo exhibitions of Closson's work during his lifetime in 1913, 1919 and 1924. In addition, he also showed in the 17th Annual Exhibition of the Society of Washington Artists held at the Corcoran Gallery, where “the place of honor” was given to eight of his small works, deemed by the Washington Star as “the stuff that dreams are made of.”  Closson was one of the first artists taken into membership of the Grand Central Art Galleries in New York City, and he was also a member of the Copley Society, the Boston Art Club, the North Shore Arts Association and the Allied Artists of America. As further testimony to his success and popularity, his best-known work, Nymph and Water-Babies at Play, was acquired by the National Gallery and is currently in the collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. In addition to the Smithsonian, Closson’s work can be found in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the Smith College Museum of Art in Northampton, Massachusetts, the Yale University Art Gallery in Connecticut and the Colby College Museum of Art in Waterville, Maine. Vose Galleries’ 1927 memorial exhibition, featuring over 50 oils, 20 pastels and 10 watercolors, was held just a year after his death, followed by Grand Central Art Galleries’ own memorial show in 1928.  While Closson faded somewhat from public recognition since his passing, he can now regain his place in the annals of American art.

References: Falk, Who Was Who in American Art, 1999; Closson Memorial Exhibition catalogue, Vose Galleries’ archives.

[1] Closson Memorial Exhibition, Vose Galleries, 1927

Available Work