William Paxton

About the Artist

William McGregor Paxton (June 22, 1869 – 1941)

William McGregor Paxton
(June 22, 1869 – 1941)

William McGregor Paxton’s great talent and skill gave him entrée into a world he wasn’t born to, but which he captured beautifully on canvas. Paxton was born into a working class family. His father ran a catering business in Newton Corner, Massachusetts in the mid-1870s.

Finding His Muse

Paxton’s artistic talents were apparent at a very young age. He was in high school, just eighteen years old, when he received a scholarship to the Cowles School of Art in Boston. The Cowles School, located just two blocks behind the Museum of Fine Arts was one of the largest and most prestigious art centers in Boston and produced many fine artists and art teachers, including Paxton’s wife and muse, Elizabeth Okie Paxton.

William Paxton
Elizabeth Vaughan Okie, 1895

“I want to make clear.” he said, “that the artist’s task is to create emotion rather than to be moved. No doubt one who has never felt emotion is incapable of communicating it to others, but most of us have felt it, and few of us can pass it on.”

After two years at Cowles, Paxton spent four years in Paris, studying with Jean Leon Gerome at the Ecole Des Beaux Arts.

When he returned to Boston, in 1893, he rented a studio and painted portraits to support himself. His beautiful paintings of affluent women, enjoying their leisure in luxurious settings, won him numerous awards and notable commissions, including portraits of Presidents Grover Cleveland and Calvin Coolidge.

The Boston School

Paxton’s Boston School style has had a major influence on American art and his paintings are an historic glimpse into the class culture of the first half of the twentieth century. His style, influenced by Vermeer, focused sharply on just one area of a painting, while the rest was blurred.

He was a co-founder of the Guild of Boston Artists and a full member of the National Academy of Design. Paxton’s works can be found in private collections around the world, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Smithsonian and other fine museums and galleries. Paxton’s work often exceeds expectations at auction. Last year, The Yellow Jacket was the top lot at Bonhams American art sale, at $413,000.

2021-04-28T13:43:40-04:00 August 15th, 2016|

Want to learn more about a particular artist or work? Contact us.