As a painter of the beautiful New England landscapes through the seasons, John Whorf is heralded as one of the most talented watercolorists of the early 20th century. Born in Winthrop, Massachusetts, in 1903, he was exposed to art from an early age by his father, Harry C. Whorf, who worked as a graphic designer. Studying simultaneously at the St. Botolph Studio in Boston and the school at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Whorf honed his talent. The influence of classmate Charles W. Hawthorne, whom he met in Provincetown, as well as the remarkable landscape of Cape Cod had a lasting effect on Whorf who revisited this subject throughout his career. He worked alongside leading painters of the day Max Bohm and E. Ambrose Webster in Provincetown’s growing art colony. In 1919, Whorf embarked on a European tour, studying briefly at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, the Grande Chaumiere, and the Academie Colarossi. It was during this time that he became interested in the expressive qualities of watercolor.
Upon his return from abroad, Whorf was featured in his first solo exhibition at the Grace Horne Gallery. As a tribute to his talent, his work was so well received that the renowned artist John Singer Sargent purchased one of his pieces, and Boston’s press dubbed him the most talented watercolorist. In the following years, Whorf studied under Sargent’s private tutelage, and he continued to enjoy wide success. The prolific artist exhibited his work at the Milch Gallery in New York, the Shore Galleries in Provincetown, as well as annually at Grace Horne. Though he frequently travelled the States with his wife in search of inspiration, he always returned to his native New England, settling in Provincetown. He was honored by representing Massachusetts in the Museum of Modern Art’s 1938 American art exhibition in Paris. In 1947 he was elected a member of the National Academy of Design.
Whorf’s brilliant watercolors captured the lively scenery of Cape Cod and the predominant livelihood of the region, fishing. His fluid brush strokes recalled the Impressionist style, but his subject and medium impart a unique, American technique. His painterly style was spontaneous, yet bold, and his realistic renderings of both landscapes and figural subjects feel intimate.
John Whorf’s artwork is held in major collections worldwide, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Corcoran Gallery of Art, and the Whitney Museum of American Art, to name only a few. His work continues to be highly sought today.
William Robinson Leigh
Guy Carleton Wiggins
Gil Gilette Elvgren
Sven Birger Sandzen
John George Brown
Robert Alan Bechtle
Walter Launt Palmer
To view a video about John Whorf, click here.