National Gallery of Art - EXHIBITIONS
American Impressionism and Realism

Biography: John Twachtman, 1853 - 1902


John Twachtman 1853 - 1902 John Henry Twachtman was born in Cincinnati, in 1853, to German immigrants. Among the various jobs that Frederick Twachtman took to support his family was that of window shade decorator, work that young Twachtman also assumed when he was fourteen years old. Concurrently, John Twachtman attended classes at the Ohio Mechanics Institute. After 1871 he was enrolled part-time in the McMicken School of Design, where he met Frank Duveneck.

Although only five years Twachtman's senior, Duveneck, who had studied in Munich, had already achieved some success in the United States. The older artist invited Twachtman to share his studio in Cincinnati and eventually to return to Europe with him. In 1875 Twachtman began to study under Ludwig von Loefftz at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Munich, where he learned the broad, vigorous brushwork and somber tones typical of that school. A trip to Venice with Duveneck and William Merritt Chase in 1877 did not lighten his palette appreciably.

Returning to the United States in 1878, Twachtman taught briefly at the Women's Art Association of Cincinnati, but spent much of his time in the east. He became a member of the Society of American Artists in 1879, and the next year he returned to Europe, assisting as a teacher in Duveneck's school in Florence. In 1881 he married Martha Scudder and the couple went abroad, where they remained until 1882. During this visit Twachtman spent time in Holland, painting and etching with his friend J. Alden Weir.

From 1883 to 1885 Twachtman studied at the Académie Julian in Paris and spent the summers painting in Normandy and at Arques-la-Bataille, near Dieppe. During this period his brushwork became more subdued and his palette lightened considerably, a change to which his familiarity with the work of James McNeill Whistler may have contributed.

By 1886 Twachtman and his family had returned to the United States, probably spending much of their time in New York. During the winter of 1886 - 1887, the artist supported them by painting Civil War battle scenes on a cyclorama constructed in Chicago. In 1889 he began to teach at the Art Students League in New York and to produce illustrations for Scribner's. About this time he purchased a farm in Greenwich, Connecticut, which became the subject of many of his best-known landscapes.

While living in the country, Twachtman exhibited in New York throughout the 1890s. In 1893, his work was included in an American Art Galleries exhibition with that of J. Alden Weir, and he also won a medal at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. About a year later he received commissions for a landscape series of Niagara Falls and Yellowstone National Park. In 1897 Twachtman was a founding member of The Ten and exhibited with them until his death in 1902.


Boyle, Richard J. John Twachtman. New York, 1979.

Chotner, Deborah, Lisa N. Peters, and Kathleen Pyne. John Twachtman: Connecticut Landscapes [exh. cat., National Gallery of Art] (Washington, 1989).

Clark, Eliot. John Twachtman. New York, 1924.

Hale, John Douglass. "The Life and Creative Development of John H. Twachtman." Ph.D. diss., 2 vols., Ohio State University, 1957.

Hale, John Douglass, Richard J. Boyle, and William H. Gerdts. Twachtman in Gloucester: His Last Years, 1900 - 1902 [exh. cat., Ira Spanierman Gallery] (New York, 1987).

Peters, Lisa N., William H. Gerdts, John Douglass Hale, and Richard J. Boyle. In the Sunlight: The Floral and Figurative Art of J. H. Twachtman [exh. cat., Ira Spanierman Gallery] (New York, 1989).

Peters, Lisa. "John Twachtman (1853 - 1902) and the American Scene in the Late Nineteenth Century: The Frontier Within the Terrain of the Familiar." Ph.D. diss., City University of New York, 1995.