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Paul Bernard King
- Philadelphia, PA., New York, Nova Scotia, Maine
- Landscape, Marine
Traditional American painter Paul King was born in Buffalo, New York on February 9, 1867. Even as a boy, Paul learned the meaning of composition, color, and texture as he assisted his father, Bernard H. King, a competent designer and craftsman of objects in precious metal. He also learned the importance of draftsmanship at the age of sixteen when he took up lithography. After the founding of the Buffalo Art Students League (1891), King became one of the first to study there. In Buffalo’s Bohemian Sketch Club he shared his enthusiasm for art with Eugene Speicher, Edward Dufner, and George Bridgman who also taught at the Buffalo Art Students League. The League would move into the basement of the Albright Art Gallery in 1902. Beginning in 1899, Bridgman became an influential teacher at the Art Students League in New York, where, between 1901 and 1904, King studied life drawing under H. Siddons Mowbray, a highly respected academic painter. King had already felt the influence of the international style of impressionism in the 1890s. Some of this derived from the Art Students League and from the 1901 Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo.
During that period, King’s manner was somewhat conservative, as he painted landscapes, marines, portraits, and rural genre. The lure of Europe, particularly Paris, drew King to discover its painters and museums. By 1905, King was in the City of Light and then on to study in Italy and Holland. Despite his instruction under obscure Dutch tonalists, King’s palette became higher in key and his pigment was more spontaneously applied in juxtaposed dashes of broken color. Eventually the surfaces of his canvases became colorful planes of scintillating texture. Perhaps King would have seen the groundbreaking Salon d’Automne in Paris, where the Fauves were “unleashed” on the art world, introducing an entirely new use of boldly applied, raw color and highly simplified forms but such an expressionistic, conceptual use of color went beyond the naturalism that interested King.
Upon his return to America in 1906, King was doubly honored by the Salmagundi Club when he was awarded both the Shaw Prize and the Inness Prize. From his studio at 10 South 18th Street in Philadelphia, King submitted work to various national exhibitions such as the Art Institute of Chicago, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (1903-38), and the Corcoran Gallery (1907-21). He also exhibited at the Carnegie Internationals (1903-21). At the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in 1915, his powerful work entitled Winter won him a silver medal, and three years later, he was named as Associate to the National Academy of Design. King was active with Casson Galleries and the Woodward Art Gallery, both in Boston. The Archives of American Art has the correspondence between King and these gallery directors.
Many of King’s rural landscapes include the motif of workhorses and although their movement is graceful, these are not the lithe race or carriage horses of Degas, but rather the American counterpart of Jean-Baptiste Millet’s dignified farm animals. Paintings such as The Old Farm and Hauling Logs reveal not only the artist’s fondness for traditional American genre but also the lingering influence of the earlier Barbizon School. King executed numerous winter scenes, many of which were painted on the coasts of Maine and Nova Scotia. In a discussion of King’s Early Winter, which received the First Altman Prize, Edward Hale Brush (1924) described the scene as “characteristically American, a river, a bridge, a village blanketed under snow, and a sort of feeling everywhere that more snow is coming.” King was also known for his marines, and in these he was accomplished in presenting the effects of moisture-laden atmosphere. In a New York Evening Post review of King’s first one-man show at the Ferargil Galleries in 1923, an unidentified critic observed how, “the broad handling of his themes gives vigor to the simplicity of his composition, but there is also a swift revelation of unexpected depth, a subtle emotional value that gives a particular richness and charm to these canvases.”
The artist opened a summer studio at Stony Brook on Long Island and painted there for many years. In 1928, he was awarded the Isidor Prize from the Salmagundi Club and five years later he was named full academician at the NAD. Although his once highly regarded impressionism came to be eclipsed by more modern imagery, the artist continued to paint throughout the 1930s and early 1940s — as late as 1937 King received a bronze medal from the staid National Arts Club. He died in New York City, on November 25, 1947 at the age of eighty-six, when living artists as diverse as Picasso, Charles Burchfield, Chaim Gross, and Joe Jones all had one-man shows in various New York galleries.
Brush, Edward Hale, “The Art of Paul King, A.N.N.,” American Magazine of Art 15 (February 1924): 59-63; American Painters of the Impressionist Period Rediscovered. Waterville, ME: Colby College Press, 1975, p. 77; Zellman, Michael David, 300 Years of American Art. Secacus, NJ: Wellfleet Press, 1987, p. 607.
Submitted originally to AskArt by Richard H. Love and Michael Preston Worley, Ph.D.