Thomas Wilmer Dewing (May 4, 1851 – November 5, 1938) was an American
painter working at the turn of the 20th century.
Thomas Wilmer Dewing (May 4, 1851 – November 5, 1938) was an American painter
working at the turn of the 20th century. He was born in Newton Lower Falls,
Massachusetts. He studied at the Académie Julian in Paris, and later settled
into a studio in New York City. He married Maria Oakey Dewing, an accomplished
painter with extensive formal art training and familial links with the art
He is best known for his tonalist paintings, a sub-genre of American art that
was rooted in English Aestheticism. Dewing's preferred vehicle of artistic
expression is the female figure. Often seated playing instruments, writing
letters, or engaged in other impassive actions and situated in gauzy, dreamy
interiors, the figures remain remote and distant to the viewer. These scenes are
infused with a color that pervades the entire picture, setting tone and mood.
The ethereal delicacy and subtle color harmonies of Dewing's paintings have not
met with universal approval: some feminist critics have lambasted Dewing's work
as being misogynistic; he rarely painted anything other than the female figure,
vacant of expression, languishing in sumptuous clothing.
Tonalism quickly came to be considered outdated with the advent of modernism and
abstraction in art, though Dewing was successful in his own day. His art was
considered extremely elegant, and has undergone a subtle revival in the last 10
years or so.
Dewing was a member of the Ten American Painters, a group of American
Impressionists who seceded from the Society of American Artists in 1897.
He spent his summers at the art colony in Cornish, New Hampshire.
The foremost Dewing scholar living today is Susan A. Hobbs. The most complete
publication regarding Dewing in book format is The Art of Thomas Wilmer Dewing:
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