The painter, teacher, and writer William Edward Bloomfield Starkweather was known for his impressionist landscape paintings as well as for his research and writings on other painters.
Although some sources say that he was born in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1879, his mother’s Bible suggested to Starkweather that he was born as William Bloomfield in Belfast, Ireland on May 10th, 1876. In either case, after his father Edward died, William’s mother brought William to America in 1844 and settled them in Connecticut. He was soon orphaned, and was adopted by John and Hannah Starkweather of Winchester, CT.
Starkweather studied in New York at the famed Art Students League, and then in Paris between 1899 and 1901. He returned to New York where for two years he illustrated books for four major New York publishing houses. About 85 of his covers are known, and he drew inside illustrations also. He mostly signed these with his initials WEBS. A range of examples of these book covers were exhibited at the Hickory Museum of Art between March and early July in 2013. (Pictures from that exhibit here.)
Starkweather then spent three years with the Spanish master Sorolla in Spain and another three years in Italy before again returning to New York, this time as a practicing artist who also lectured and published extensively on Spanish art. He was appointed assistant curator at the Hispanic Society in 1910, a position he held until 1916. In 1918, he began a 28-year art teaching career in New York City to support his continued painting, including at Hunter College between 1936 and 1946.
By 1921, Starkweather had switched from oils to watercolor, a transition that was well received by critics. He also became a member of the American Water Color Society. He painted landscapes primarily from around New England, work that the fellow artist and academic Anthony Panzera in 1988 described as “the brilliant summer light captured in broad brush strokes of pure color and the bold contrasts of light and dark.” Starkweather stayed with realistic subject matter, painting portraits, landscapes, and views from balconies, street scenes, and architectural details.
As Starkweather grew older, he expressed concern over the disposal of his work after his death. One of Starkweather’s friends in New York City was the painter Wilford Seymour Conrow, mentor to HMA’s founder and first director Paul Whitener. Through that connection, in 1954 Whitener received eight Starkweather paintings for consideration, along with a letter in which Starkweather wrote of his interest in having this artwork placed where it would “be seen, be useful, and be preserved.” Whitener was happy to accept this generous gift.
In addition to being in the Hickory Museum of Art collection, Starkweather’s works are in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the University of Pennsylvania and in the Instituto de Valencia de Don Juan in Madrid, among others.
A description of the preservation work done for HMA on Starkweather's Late Afternoon Light Painted at Essex, Mass in 1915 is described here.
And here is an extensive Starkweather web site created by by Peter Falotico, the President of Stony Brook Print who is, in his own words of Facebook, "obsessed with the artist William E.B. Starkweather." The book covers displayed at HMA in 2013 were from Falotico's collection.
HMA's Starkweather works will be on display between October 31, 2015 and August 14, 2016 in the Paul Whitener Gallery.
Post by Karin Borei, HMA Project Coordinator, writer and editor as needed, and HMA blogger since our blog's inception in March 2015.