Monday, November 1, 2010

Harry Grant Williamson (1866-1937)

Illustrator and landscapist Harry Grant Williamson was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, on March 31, 1866. He began his art studies at the Art Students’ League of Cincinnati, probably as a teenager.  He then followed the example of a group of older Hoosier artists--T.C. Steele, William Forsyth, John Ottis Adams, and Samuel Richards among them--by studying at the Royal Academy in Munich from about 1887 to 1888. From there it was on to Paris and The Hague, where Williamson became enamored of the Dutch landscape and the Dutch art that reflected it. Upon his return to his native country, Williamson enrolled at the Indiana School of Art, where he studied under Steele and Forsyth from 1891 to 1894.

In 1890, Williamson co-founded--along with Steele, Forsyth, and Adams--the Portfolio Club of Indianapolis. The club promoted art in Indianapolis with lectures, meetings, papers, and exhibits throughout the 1890s. Williamson joined his instructor, T.C. Steele, in Vernon, Indiana, in 1893 to paint landscapes. That same year, he contributed a charcoal drawing to the first issue of J.M. BowlesModern Art, published in Indianapolis. He also studied under Charles L. McDonald in Indianapolis during the mid-1890s. At about the same time, he worked as a cartoonist for the Indianapolis News.

Williamson’s love of Dutch art drew him back to The Netherlands around the middle of the 1890s. He lived there for some time before returning once again to the United States with a Dutch wife, Sara (or Sarah), and a son, Marshall. During the early 1900s, Williamson lived in New Jersey and worked as an illustrator for Harper’s, Pearson’s, The Saturday Evening Post, and Success. He illustrated or co-illustrated several books including A Son of the Sun by Jack London (1912). Williamson was a member of the Salmagundi Club and the Society of Illustrators. In later years, he painted landscapes.

Williamson died on November 9, 1937, in Edgewater, New Jersey.

So much of the interior illustration for magazine fiction during the early 1900s was done with dark, gloomy charcoal. Harry Grant Williamson's work was no exception. However, as his frontispiece for Vaiti of the Islands by Beatrice Grimshaw (1908) shows, he was capable of working nicely in color media as well.

We look upon illustration of the golden age with nostalgia, realizing that we have lost something in our headlong rush into the future. But the world that read finely made magazines also did its laundry with a tub and a washboard, as in this warm and charming picture by Williamson from 1905.

The previous picture anticipates developments in illustration for the twentieth century. This one harkens back to the nineteenth.

Copyright 2010 Terence E. Hanley

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing this.I have been researching HGW sporadically for a few years now.I became intrested when I inherited one of his Dutch paintings & could find no information about this man anywhere! JVB