John Ferguson Weir was born in West Point, New York, where his father—the well known painter Robert Walter Weir—taught art at the United States Military Academy. John trained with his father, and in 1862 he rented studio space in the famed Tenth Street Studio Building in Manhattan. The young artist was surrounded by masters like Frederic Church, Albert Bierstadt, and Winslow Homer. Nearly two years into his occupancy there, Weir had a breakthrough with his large, ambitious portrait of his father’s workshop at West Point. The painting, entitled An Artist’s Studio, was the first of many works to be exhibited at the National Academy of Design.
Weir experienced financial and critical success at this early stage, and in addition to his work as an artist he also gained professional success as the first Dean of the Yale University School of Fine Arts. During the forty-five years in which he occupied this seat, he continued to paint still lifes, landscapes, and portraits—often of the esteemed men associated with the University. His younger brother, Julian Alden Weir, who also achieved great success as a painter, encouraged John to begin painting floral still lifes in the 1880s. Weir’s impact on the course of American art is best felt through his integral role in developing the country’s first university-affiliated fine arts program, though his elegant, Impressionist paintings can be found in prominent museum collections across the country including the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY; Corcoran Gallery, Washington, DC; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA; and the Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown, OH, among many others.