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John Ferguson Weir (1841-1926)
Born: West Point, NY
Died: Providence, RI

American painter, sculptor, writer, and educator. Following the success of his early career as a painter, John Ferguson Weir became an influential art educator. He grew up at West Point, where his father, Robert W. Weir was drawing instructor at the United States Military Academy. He received his art training from his father, beginning at an early age, and through his father was introduced to leading artists. He served briefly in the New York Seventh Regiment in 1861. Later that year he took a studio in the Tenth Street Studio Building in New York. His exhibition of An Artist’s Studio, 1861-64 (LACMA; q.v.), at the National Academy of Design in 1864 secured his election as an associate member of the organization. He obtained full membership in the academy when in 1866 he exhibited The Gun Foundry, 1866 (Putnam County Historical Society, Cold Spring, New York), a dramatic representation of an industrial subject. Forging the Shaft, 1868 (destroyed; repetition of 1874-77, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York), another heroic industrial subject, established his reputation as one of the most promising young artists. He married in 1866 and late in 1868 went abroad, where he received an invitation to become director of the Yale School of Fine Arts, a position he assumed in September 1869. Until his retirement in 1913, most of Weir’s time and energy was taken up in teaching, the administration of the art school, and expansion of the art collection, most notably in the acquisition of the Jarves collection of early Italian paintings. His major paintings behind him, he painted portraits and landscapes, but also did some sculpture and architectural designs. He wrote on both art and religion. With his younger half-brother J. ALDEN WEIR he made a second trip abroad in 1881. His later landscapes in an impressionist style reflect the influence of J. Alden Weir. After his retirement, he lived in Providence, R.I. 

New Haven, Conn., Yale University, Sterling Memorial Library, John Ferguson Weir Papers § Tuckerman 1867, pp. 487-88 § George W. Sheldon, American Painters (New York: Appleton, 1879), pp. 175-77 § John Ferguson Weir, The Recollections of John Ferguson Weir, Director of the Yale School of the Fine Arts, 1869-1913, ed. Theodore Sizer (New York and New Haven: New-York Historical Society and Associates in Fine Arts at Yale University, 1957) § Betsy Fahlman, "John Ferguson Weir: Painter of Romantic and Industrial Icons," Archives of American Art Journal 20, no. 2 (1980): 2-9.

_img src=_John Ferguson Weir.jpg_ alt=_Painting of autumnal View of the Hudson Highlands f

A sublime view of the Hudson Highlands from West Point. This poetic autumnal scene is characteristic of Weir's  works, View of the Hudson Highland From West Point and Figure Overlooking West Point. It's plausible that Weir may have painted the three scenes as a series or ensemble. This proposed idea is based on a perceived similarity in the style and composition. More importantly, the idea is supported by the iconic site in the aforementioned paintings.. A place of respite or such, Weir had an affinity for the area and often visited for inspiration. it's plausible that he was inspired to document the site not only from different point of the compass but also at different time of the year.

Hudson River School: The First Native School of Painting in the United States

Hudson River School painters revered nature as the embodiment of the universal spirit. At first glance their paintings seem to represent only beauty and repose. But it is upon reflection that the viewer recognizes how these images evoke a philosophical ideal that places man’s internal harmony in relation to the vastness of nature, transcending literal description to a more mystical mood. Their innovative approach was very different from that of many of their contemporaries who thought of nature as a hostile entity to be subdued or a bonanza to be exploited.

Hudson River School artists celebrated the immense nation that lay before them with a sense of awe for its majestic wilderness and a feeling of optimism for the future of civilization in this new world. They gloried in depicting a vast wilderness in which diminutive man retained the intellectual spark that completed the mystical circle of internal harmony. Hudson River School artists believed art to be an agent of moral and spiritual transformation and as Emerson suggested in his 1841 essay Thoughts On Art, painting should become a vehicle through which the intellectual mind could reach the universal mind of mankind. The distinctive disposition of these

paintings — gracefully lyrical with discerning philosophical intensity — has led many to champion their significant contributions to the history and development of American art.

As early as the summer of 1825 artists were creating paintings inspired by the Hudson River Valley. Those paintings became a sensation with the public and a model for other American landscape painters that followed, launching the Hudson River School and its romantic, idealized vision of America.

The Hudson River School encompassed two generations of artists inspired by images of America’s unspoiled wilderness that they found in the Hudson River Valley areas of New York from 1825 to 1915 and also at the edge of the expanding frontier in the newly opened West. Collectively their paintings reflected a growing pride in the beauty of the American wilderness where human beings and nature coexisted peacefully. Their paintings combined a poet’s romantic sense of nature with a geographer’s sense of place and reflected a new outlook on wilderness — one in which nature was more beautiful than terrifying and where one could find internal harmony with the universe.They were a loosely formed group and the ideas raised in their landscapes were also expressed by American writers of the period.

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