Dwight William Tryon (1849-1925) was a noted American landscape painter whose painting style is associated with American tonalism. His paintings gained international recognition from the 1880s through the 1920s. Charles Lang Freer was his primary patron. Tryon taught art at Smith College and became head of the Art Department. The Tryon papers, dating from circa 1872 to 1930, document Tryon's professional and personal life and include correspondence, photographs, a sketchbook, and newspaper clippings.
Scope and Contents:
The Dwight William Tryon papers span circa 1872 to 1930 and measure .5 linear feet. The collection contains: nineteen photographs, a sketchbook, a letter, and five newspaper clippings.
The collection is arranged into 4 series: Series 1: Photographs, circa 1872 - 1915, no date, Series 2: Sketchbook, 1887-1888, no date, Series 3: Correspondence, June 17, 1895, Series 4: Newspaper Clippings, 1923, 1925, 1930, no date
Biographical / Historical:
American landscape painter Dwight William Tryon was born in Hartford, CT on August 13, 1849. When Tryon was about 2 years old, his father Anson Tryon was killed in a hunting accident and he was raised at his maternal grandparents' home. At the age of fourteen, Tryon began work as a machinist at Colt's Firearms Factory in Hartford to support his mother and himself. He enrolled in evening classes at Hannum's Business School and developed calligraphic skills which supplemented his income.
In 1864 Tryon became a bookkeeper and clerk at Brown and Gross, the finest booksellers in Hartford and a gathering place for local literary people such as Harriet Beecher Stowe and Mark Twain. During his ten-year appointment there, Tryon self-studied art using the bookstore's large stock in art books and made weekend sketching trips to the Connecticut River. In 1872 Tryon was appointed Secretary of the Hartford Art Association and began exhibiting his works. In 1873 he exhibited at the National Academy of Design in New York. In that year he married Alice Hepzibah Belden whom he had met in the bookstore.
In December, 1876, the Tryon family moved to Paris, France to pursue art with financial support from the Cheney family, wealthy silk manufacturers in South Manchester, CT. Tryon received formal training under Jacquesson de la Chevreuse, a Barbizon painter Charles-Francois Daubigny, and others. He also attended the École des Beaux-Arts.
On returning to the United States in 1881, Tryon took a studio in New York and taught for several years. In the following year, he became a member of the Society of American Artists. Throughout the 1880s when the Barbizon paintings were highly regarded, Tryon's French-inspired American landscape paintings received international as well as national acclaim, winning him numerous medals and awards. In 1899, Tryon was awarded the Webb prize by the Society of American Artists for The First Leaves, a recognition given annually to the best landscape painting by a young American artist. In the same year, Tryon sold his first painting to Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919), a Detroit industrialist and collector, who became Tryon's principal patron.
From 1886 to 1923, Tryon taught at Smith College, MA, as Professor of Art and took charge of the Art Department. He advised on the college's art collection and acted as the department's representative in the New York art world. Tryon resigned from the College in May 1923, and in June of the same year he received an honorary Master of Arts degree from Smith College.
In 1887, the Tryon family built a house ("The Cottage") in Padanaram, a coastal village in South Dartmouth, MA, where they would spend every year from spring to autumn until his death. In Padanaram, Tryon made sketches which he developed into paintings in his New York apartment during the winter months. Tryon also took immense pleasure in fishing and sailing in Padanaram.
In 1904, the Montross Gallery in New York held a one-man show on Tryon's painting, and in 1913 they launched Tryon's Retrospective Exhibition. In 1923, the Freer Gallery of Art opened in Washington, D. C., including a permanent collection of Tryon's paintings.
Tryon died of cancer at his summer house on July 1, 1925, at the age of 75. Upon his death, Tryon bequeathed a large number of his works to Smith College. In September of the following year, the Tryon Gallery at Smith College opened.
1849, August 1st -- Born, Hartford, CT. Son of Anson Tryon and Delia O. Roberts Tryon
[1851-1852] -- Anson Tryon is killed in a hunting accident
1863 -- Machinist at Colt's Firearms Factory, Hartford
1864 -- Begins work as a bookkeeper and clerk at Brown and Gross, Hartford
1872 -- Appointed Secretary of the Hartford Art Association
1873 -- Exhibits at the National Academy of Design
1873 -- Marries Alice Hepzibah Belden
1876-1881 -- Studies art in Paris with Jacquesson de la Chevreuse, Charles-Francois Daubigny, and at the École des Beaux-Arts
1881 -- Returns to the United States and settles in New York
1882 -- Becomes a Member of the Society of American Artists
1886-1923 -- Professor of art at Smith College, Northampton, MA
1889 -- Awarded the Webb Prize for The First Trees by the Society of American Artists
1889 -- Sells his first painting to Charles Lang Freer
1891 -- Elected Associate of the National Academy of Design
1913 -- Retrospective Exhibition
1923 -- Freer Gallery of Art opens, including a permanent collection of Tryon's paintings
1923 -- Retires from Smith College and is conferred an Honorary degree of M.A.
1925, July 1st -- Dies at his summer house in South Dartmouth, MA
1926 -- The Tryon Gallery at Smith College opens
Charles Lang Freer papers housed in the Freer Gallery of Art and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives include Tryon's correspondence.
Nelson and Henry C. White research material housed in the Archives of American Art include Tryon's correspondence, notes, and photographs.
Alfred Vance Churchill Papers housed in Smith College Archives include Tryon's correspondence.
The Freer Gallery of Art and Smith College Museum of Art are major repositories that house Tryon's work.
An anonymous donor and Linda Merrill donated Tryon's papers to the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives in 1989.
Access is by appointment only, Monday through Thursday 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Please contact the Archives to make an appointment: AVRreference@si.edu.
Permission to reproduce and publish an item from the Archives is coordinated through the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery's Rights and Reproductions department. Please contact the Archives in order to initiate this process.