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Thomas W. Nason

American, 1889 - 1971

Nason, Thomas Willoughby

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Thomas Nason was born in Massachusetts and grew up on a farm, where he had the opportunity to observe all forms of nature. Nason showed early talent at drawing, but the only formal study he received was a life-drawing course he took in 1916-1917.

Nason's first jobs were clerical, mainly as secretary to individuals who traveled widely. In 1917 Nason enlisted in the Eighth Massachusetts Regiment and served six months in France. He continued his self-education by familiarizing himself with the print departments in neighborhood bookstores and became friends with Percy Grassby, a wood engraver whom he accompanied on sketching trips. By 1921, Nason had produced his first woodcuts and progressed to wood engraving. He acquired a small hand press and worked in a room in his house. In 1923, his artistic reputation was established when he sold six woodcuts to Century Magazine. During the next few years, his prints were sold by bookstores and art dealers in Boston and New York.

Nason continued secretarial work until 1931, when his employer died; at that time he decided to devote himself full-time to his art. Nason earned a living from a series of commissions for bookplates, and from magazine and book illustrations, such as Robert Frost's You Came Too. Over the course of his career Nason produced more than six hundred prints. He was elected to the National Academy of Design in 1936.

Nason's early works are characterized by broadly cut forms, but as his work progressed, he developed a more subtle and intimate approach. His images range from landscapes to vignettes of rural American life, often showing a New England locale. Summer Storm is considered by many specialists to be Nason's masterwork because of its sensitive, poetic visual style.

[This is an excerpt from the interactive companion program to the videodisc American Art from the National Gallery of Art. Produced by the Department of Education Resources, this teaching resource is one of the Gallery's free-loan educational programs.]

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