Willard Leroy Metcalf: An American Impressionist

Katherine19th Century Art, American Paintings, Artist Spotlight, ImpressionismLeave a Comment

Willard Leroy Metcalf

Willard Leroy Metcalf “On the River”

Known as “Metty” to friends, Willard Leroy Metcalf was the master painter of New England landscapes. He understood the vibrant American landscape and had a great instinct for capturing it. Peers praised his work for its directness and sincerity.

Thanks to a prosperous career as an illustrator, Metcalf was able to travel to France and became the first American artist to spend time in Giverny, a favorite of Monet. He won an honorable mention at the Paris Salon of 1888.

Nature was a major source of inspiration all of Metcalf’s life. He was often found going out into the woods and would return home with a notebook filled with sketches of plants and animals. He amassed a collection of bird eggs, butterflies, and other things he would come across. Thanks to this profound love of nature, he was able to properly represent the outside world. The landscapes are fragrant, breezy, and authentic. He trusted his eyes, not theory or rules.

The Society of American Artists and the National Academy of Design were dogmatic organizations that preferred classical style, which Willard Leroy Metcalf found tiresome. In the late nineteenth century Willard Leroy Metcalf and others such as Childe Hassam and John Henry Twachtman banded together and created The Ten. The Ten aimed to explore new and upcoming styles – most notably Impressionism – and allowed for a greater amount of ease for new artists to show at galleries. Together, they introduced the American public to Impressionism.

The Ten were not just interested in making Impressionism more excisable, but in bringing attention to the American offshoot. American Impressionism is considered more realistic looking than its French predecessor, but that is not true of all paintings. It is a marriage of European and American techniques. What draws together these works under the American Impressionism umbrella is the special attention to light and subjects that reflect American ideals.

Breaking away from the European vanguard allowed Willard Leroy Metcalf to fully realize his ideals, which could always be found in nature. He lovingly recreated the New England landscape using deliberate and unhurried brushstrokes to capture the essence of each season.


Kenny Ackerman is an Art Dealer in New York, specializing in Fine Art Paintings from 19th-21st century Europe and America. To buy or sell original paintings by artists we represent, contact Ackerman’s Fine Art here.


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