Thomas Buford Meteyard (1865-1928)

Meteyard, from Rock Island, Illinois (b. November 12, 1865), was one of many American impressionist painters directly inspired by Claude Monet in Giverny. After growing up in Chicago and studying at Harvard (1885-87), Meteyard went to England where he encountered members of the Aesthetic Movement, then to Paris to study under Bonnat and others, possibly including Puvis de Chavannes. In a letter dated April 20, 1890 to the poet Richard Hovey (1864-1900), the Illinois poet who was also in France and England between 1891-92, Meteyard praised the paintings of John Leslie Breck: “He is an impressionist, rather of the Monet school, and a friend of Monet’s. I admire his work immensely.” (Richard Hovey Papers, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire).

 

Both Meteyard and Hovey were influenced by the French Symbolists and Meteyard met Edvard Munch and Stéphane Mallarmé in Paris. Already in 1890, Meteyard was in Giverny, where he painted Giverny, Moonlight (Daniel J. Terra Collection). In July 1891, the American painter’s name appeared in the Hôtel Baudy’s guest register, along with the following: Theodore Robinson, Lilla Cabot Perry, Breck, and Mr. and Mrs. Walter Gay. Meteyard spent September of 1891 through February of 1892 at the Hôtel Baudy. He re-registered in April and stayed until September 8. In May of 1892, Theodore Earl Butler, Meteyard, Breck, Philip Hale, Dawson-Watson, and Hovey published the first issue of Le Courrier innocent, which included poetry and outstanding illustrations. Meteyard also participated in the Barc de Boutteville exhibits in 1892. That summer we find Meteyard proposing marriage to the painter Alice Beckington (1868-1942), a student at the Académie Julian under Charles “Shorty” Lasar, Constant and Lefebvre. The two were never married but remained good friends. Between late April and June 23, 1893, Meteyard was back at the Hôtel Baudy. Gerdts (1992, p. 176) mentions that Meteyard executed a series of grainstacks, something like Breck’s, only in watercolor. Two of his works (both lost) were shown in the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893: Iris Meadows and Road at Giverny.

 

Around that time, Meteyard experimented with Japanese composition and Art Nouveau decorative linearity, both of which were utilized in his book illustrations. He was involved in Stone and Kimball’s Chap Book, published in Chicago. In 1897, he and Dawson-Watson revived Le Courrier innocent. He exhibited The Bridge, Winter, which evokes Whistler’s Nocturnes, at the St. Louis Universal Exposition of 1904. Between 1894 and 1910, Meteyard lived in Scituate, Massachusetts but traveled abroad extensively. For instance, in 1908 he visited St. Ives, Cornwall. By 1911, he had settled permanently in Rye (Sussex) England, behind the home of Henry James. As a painter, he applied oil and watercolor with thoughtful control to achieve the most scintillating effects of light. Giverny, Moonlight, mentioned above, composed of broad areas of color and simplified shapes, is closer to post-impressionist aesthetics. Meteyard exhibited at the Boston Art Club, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and internationally.

 

An anonymous critic (quoted by Kilmer, 1989, p. 34) remarked how Meteyard’s art “reveals a powerful imagination, a truly artistic temperament, and an eye for colour such as is rarely met with nowadays.” His late works range from a broad-brushed realism, to impressionism, and a bold pointillism. Georges Petit arranged a one-man show for Meteyard in 1926.The painter died at Territet, Switzerland, two years later.
 

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