John Ferguson Weir

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About this artist

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.