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Artist Biography

 Originally from Evans Creek, Ohio, Alexander Wyant was trained as a harness maker before falling under the spell of George Inness’ pre Civil War work. What Wyant discerned from Inness was that nature could be ominous or threatening as opposed to the general optimism found in the Hudson River School. Yet another artist who embraced this sense of alienation from nature was Hans Frederik Gude (1825-1903). Gude was a Norwegian whose ominous scene of the North Sea was on exhibit in New York City when Wyant happened to pass through. The impact of that one work was enough to send Wyant abroad to Germany in 1865 to study with Gude for two years. From Gude, Wyant learned to work the composition like a fulcrum by balancing foreground against background with the emphasis on middle distance. Details were sacrificed for the overall synthesis, with Wyant instead emphasizing the stern or the harsh. Some critics perceived his works to be powerful if ungainly.

Wyant did enjoy a good deal of success in his career, which given that he suffered a stroke in 1874 after an arduous trek out West and had to relearn painting with his left hand, is that much more remarkable. The later works tend to be darker and far more contemplative in nature, with the emphasis no longer being sweeping vistas, but instead simple growths of trees thickets and forest clearings. This was perfect when set in the context of the art market of his day as the European Barbizon style was supplanting the earlier Hudson River School and any American who was able to take advantage of that style enjoyed near celebrity status. Such was the case with Wyant who was grouped along with George Inness and Homer Dodge Martin as the Native Impressionists. Works by these three formed the nucleus of any institutional collection of significance being built around the turn of the century. Consequently paintings by Wyant are to be found in almost all of the leading museums in the United States.