William W. Churchill (1858-1926)

William W. Churchill (1858-1926)

Born in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts, William Worcester Churchill entered the inaugural class at the Museum of Fine Arts School in Boston in 1877 along with Edward H. Barnard and Charles Henry Hayden.  There he studied drawing with Edwin Graves Champney, anatomy with William Rimmer, and painting with Otto Grundmann, who subsequently taught notables Edmund Tarbell and Frank Benson. From 1878 to 1885, Churchill was in Paris studying with Leon Bonnat and upon returning to Boston, he established himself as a portrait painter. He first appears in the Boston City Directory in 1889 with a studio at 94 Boylston Street and the following year moved to the Harcourt Building on Irvington Street, among fellow artists William Paxton and Joseph DeCamp. After the building was ravaged by fire in 1904, destroying his and several artists’ life’s work, Churchill joined the five-member Committee of Arrangements that oversaw the design and building of Boston’s Fenway Studios on Ipswich Street. He moved into one of the largest, best-lit studios when the building opened at the end of 1905. Designed specifically to be artists’ space, with affordable rents and large, north-facing windows allowing the best light, Fenway Studios is oldest, continually operating studio building in the country.

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Churchill may not be as famous as some of his Boston School contemporaries, but his paintings reveal his thorough academic training and careful attention to detail.  Like Tarbell, Benson and William McGregor Paxton, he often painted beautiful women in well-appointed interiors and landscapes in and around Boston. In 1912 the Museum of Fine Arts accepted his painting, Leisure, into its permanent collection. A second painting by Churchill, Springtime, painted out-of-doors in a spontaneous impressionistic manner, was purchased by the Museum in 1981.  Churchill was a member of the Guild of Boston Artists and the Copley Society, and was a frequent exhibitor at the Boston Art Club between 1893 and 1904.  He also showed with the National Academy, the Pennsylvania Academy and the Corcoran Gallery, and was awarded prizes at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo in 1901 and the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco in 1915. 

References:  See Erica Hirshler’s biography of Churchill in Trevor J. Fairbrother, The Bostonians, Painters of an Elegant Age, 1870-1930 (Boston: Museum of Fine Arts, 1986).  For Churchill’s role in the creation of Fenway Studios see Vose Galleries, Mary Bradish Titcomb and Her Contemporaries, Artists of Fenway Studios (Boston: Vose Galleries, 1998), pp. 25, 29 n. 15.

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