Walter MacEwen: An American Expatriate Revisited

Telfair Academy August 29, 2009 - January 10, 2010

Exhibition Closed January 2010

Walter MacEwen (1858-1943) was one of the most highly decorated American artists of the late nineteenth century. Cosmopolitan and versatile, he produced works in varying genres and styles, but was best known for his charming depictions of rural Dutch life. A native of Chicago, MacEwen enrolled at the Munich Academy in 1877, commencing a residence of over six decades in Europe. By 1886, he was studying at the Academie Julian in Paris and showing his work to significant acclaim in the annual Paris salons. He would ultimately establish primary residence in Paris, remaining there until war forced him to return home to America in 1940.

Early in his career, MacEwen had also opened a studio in Hattem – a quiet medieval village in the Dutch province of Gelderland, where he spent his summers. MacEwen’s exposure to the work of seventeenth-century Dutch masters, as well as to the artists of the contemporary Hague School, exerted a considerable impact upon his developing style, and agrarian village life in Hattem inspired dozens of Dutch genre paintings that would come to define MacEwen’s mature career.

Yet MacEwen was, for the most part, a sophisticated urban-dweller, an expatriate American seeking success within the established European academic system. His oeuvre includes elegant, polished works like the Telfair’s Belle of 1810, purchased by MacEwen’s lifelong friend and fellow expatriate, Gari Melchers. The Telfair later acquired a fine example of MacEwen’s Dutch genre paintings through the generosity of Mr. George Starke. This focus exhibition, which features additional works from Mr. Starke’s collection as well as pieces from other private and public collections, will complement the MacEwen works on display in the Telfair’s contemporaneous exhibition Dutch Utopia, providing a well-rounded perspective on this accomplished artist.

Images top to bottom: Walter MacEwen, The Witches, c. 1892; Oil on canvas; 79 x 118  ¾ inches; Collection of the Jean and Graham Devoe Williford Charitable Trust. Walter MacEwen, Two Women in an Interior; Oil on canvas; 27 x 23  ½ inches; Private collection, New York