William S. Horton (1865-1936)

William S. Horton (1865-1936)

A friend and admirer of Claude Monet, William Horton devoted his life to investigating the principles of Impressionism.  His interests in light, color and atmosphere were ever-present in his work, but Horton developed his own unique interpretation of his mentor’s philosophy, incorporating a vivid color sense unlike any of his contemporaries.

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A rebel by nature, Horton had furtively painted with oils as a youth, hiding his craft from unsupportive parents who destroyed his canvases and materials. By the age of twelve, his persistence had paid off, and Horton began teaching drawing and painting to local students. He took the position of illustrator for North West Magazine just two years later, and eventually studied at the Art Students League, the Art Institute of Chicago and the Académie Julian in Paris.

While raised in the Midwest, Horton’s home base was Paris for the majority of his career.  He was happily married to a New York debutante, and he and his wife traveled extensively, allowing the artist to capture the landscapes of the United States as well as Europe. The New York City skyline and the beaches of England are among his most prominent works, as well as the ski villages and peaks of Gstaad, Switzerland. These prompted Monet to name him the “greatest painter of snow who ever lived,” [i] and the artist explored the mountainous landscape in both sun and moonlight, blanketed by sparkling snow or brimming with luscious greenery.  His brushwork developed a pointillism reminiscent of Pissarro, but Horton’s dazzling color was always uniquely his own.

Although comfortable financially for most of his life, Horton was no dilettante; he worked constantly, and showed continuously at numerous galleries and exhibitions.  He received critical acclaim both in the United States and abroad, and was a frequent exhibitor at the Salon des Indépendents, the Salmagundi Club, Durand-Ruel and Macbeth Galleries.

He died in 1936, having created over 1,000 oils and numerous drawings, pastels and watercolors. Because Horton often refused to sell his favorite pieces, his son inherited a large estate of some of his best works, which he cherished and held on to for thirty years. In 1966 Vose Galleries became the sole agent for the Horton estate in America, and held the first exhibition of his work, The Wonderful World of William S. Horton, American Impressionist (1865-1936), which traveled throughout the country.  Today, Horton’s work is held in several major museums worldwide, including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Columbus Museum of Art and the Musée Carnavale in France.

References: See Who Was Who In American Art (1999);  Vose Galleries exhibition catalog, The Wonderful World of William S. Horton: American Impressionist (1865-1936), 1966;  Adrian Bury, William S. Horton, 1865-1936, A New Look in Impressionism, exhibition catalog;  William Horton exhibition catalog, Vose Galleries of Boston, undated; Adrian Bury, The Art of William S. Horton, reprinted from The Connoisseur Year Book, 1959.   

[i] William Horton exhibition catalog, Vose Galleries of Boston, undated.

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