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"[Lathrop] painted from inner feeling, not through direct approach as I paint, and the effect is charming."
Often called the dean of the New Hope art colony, William Langson Lathrop helped establish the community of artists soon after he moved into Phillips' Mill in 1899. A dedicated teacher, Lathrop mentored several members of the New Hope school's first and second generations. Primarily a tonalist, Lathrop created poetic and evocative paintings in muted shades, often of earth browns and blue-grays. Most often he painted simplified rustic landscapes, in oils or occasionally in watercolors. Although Lathrop often worked en plein air, in the manner of many Pennsylvania impressionists, he deemed it important to complete his paintings in the studio, drawing also upon memory. In his later years, Lathrop developed a more impressionistic style, expanding the colors in his palette.
His home and studio quickly emerged as the intellectual and spiritual center of the art colony, as he ferried students to his studio and, with his wife Annie, hosted weekly teas for his colleagues.
"Sunday afternoons, the Lathrops' lawn was a collecting place at tea-time and someone remembered nostalgically only the other day how the fine, almost lost art of conversation flourished there."
-Martha Candler Cheney
These Sunday afternoon tea parties featured lively discussion of aesthetic, philosophical, and political issues, as well as a feast of homemade sandwiches, jams, beverages, and pastries. A gifted cook and a gracious hostess, Lathrop's wife, Annie, took a genuine interest in the students' well-being. She would house, feed, and encourage them in a warmly maternal fashion.
Lathrop's role as a teacher further situated the couple at the center of the community. During the summer, art students congregated at his studio. Although younger artists did not generally emulate Lathrop's style, they respected him and affectionately regarded him as their mentor.
The gatherings at Lathrop's home set a precedent for communal activity. New Hope citizens created the Phillips' Mill Community Association in 1929, an organization centered in the mill building across the street from Lathrop's home. Through their hospitality, the Lathrops helped create an influential cultural organization.
Since his boyhood on the shores of Lake Erie, Lathrop was an avid seaman. When he reached the age of sixty-seven, Lathrop decided to build the boat of his dreams. Aided by his son-in-law, Rolf Bauhan, and his friend, Henry Snell, he completed his sloop in 1930, christening it the Widge after widgeons, or sea-ducks. "Widge" was also the nick - name of Lathrop's first grandchild.
"Got underway this morning and sailed joyously out of Mahon's Ditch before a fresh northwest breeze. Headed for Cape May forty miles E.S.E. Had a glorious sail, strong wind... Widge behaved like a perfect lady."
-William L. Lathrop, Saturday, November 1, 1930
For the next eight summers, Lathrop lived on the Widge, sailing along the northeast coast and savoring the freshness and challenge of seamanship. This came to an end in September 1938 when Lathrop tragically died after his boat sank in a hurricane off Montauk, New York.
The sea appealed to Lathrop artistically as well as nautically. Like other Pennsylvania impressionists, most notably Edward Redfield, Henry Snell, Fern Coppedge, George Sotter, and Walter Schofiled, he expressed his fascination with the ocean in painting, creating many marine landscapes. Sailing on the Widge, Lathrop often sketched and painted seascapes. After his death, a painting dated September 21, 1938 was discovered in the boat's cabin, proving that until his poignant final moments, Lathrop drew inspiration from the sea.
William Lathrop. James A. Michener Art Museum archives.
Major Solo Exhibitions
A Retrospective, Richard Stuart Gallery, Pipersville, Pennsylvania, 1980
William L. Lathrop: Tonalism to Impressionism, Emily Lowe Gallery, Hofstra University, Hempstead, New York, 1981-1982; Allentown Art Museum, Allentown, Pennsylvania, 1982
Intimate Vistas: The Poetic Lanscapes of William Langson Lathrop, Michener Art Museum, Doylestown, Pennsylvania, 1999-2000
Major Group Exhibitions
Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1915, 1916, 1917, 1918, 1919, 1920, 1921, 1922, 1924, 1925, 1926, 1928, 1929, 1931, 1932, 1933, 1934, 1935, 1936
The Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1908, 1910, 1912, 1914, 1916, 1919, 1921, 1923, 1926, 1928, 1930, 1935, 1937
National Academy of Design, New York, New York, 1902, 1903, 1904, 1905, 1906-1919, 1922, 1924, 1925, 1928, 1929, 1931, 1933, 1935, 1938, 1940
Panama-Pacific Exposition, San Francisco, California, 1915
Grand Central Galleries, New York, New York, 1982
American Art in the Barbizon Mood, Smithsonian Institute, Washington, D.C., 1975
Five Greats, Rodman House, Doylestown, 1980
The Pennsylvania Impressionists: Painters of the New Hope School, Michener Art Museum, Doylestown, Pennsylvania, 1990
Masterworks of American Impressionism, Michener Art Museum, Doylestown, Pennsylvania, 1994
The Lenfest Exhibition of Pennsylvania Impressionism, Michener Art Museum, Doylestown, Pennsylvania, 2000
Earth, River and Light: Masterworks of Pennsylvania Impressionism, Michener Art Museum, Doylestown, Pennsylvania, 2002
Objects of Desire: Treasures from Private Collections, Michener Art Museum, New Hope, Pennsylvania, 2005-2006
An Evolving Legacy: Twenty Years of Collecting at the James A. Michener Art Museum, Michener Art Museum, Doylestown, Pennsylvania, 2009-2010
Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
Michener Art Museum, Doylestown, Pennsylvania
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, New York
Mercer Museum of the Bucks County Historical Society, Doylestown, Pennsylvania
Montclair Museum, New Jersey
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Reading Museum, Reading, Pennsylvania
William Lathrop in his studio, 1930. The Intelligencer, May 18, 1980. James A. Michener Art Museum archives.
Education and Training
Art Students League, New York, New York, 1887
Travel to England, France and Holland, 1888
Connection to Bucks County
Lathrop first visited Bucks County in 1898 upon the encouragement of a longtime friend, Dr. George M. Marshall, who sold him Phillips' Mill in 1899. Phillips' Mill became the site of lessons and weekly teas where lively discussions of aesthetics and politics occurred. Lathrop was an influential friend, colleague, and mentor to many important members of the Bucks County art community, including Daniel Garber, Robert Spencer, Morgan Colt, Rae Sloan Bredin, and Charles Rosen. Additionally, Lathrop was the first president of the Phillips' Mill Community Association, 1929. His son, Julian L. Lathrop, was a founder of, and taught at, the Solebury School.
William Lathrop and Henry B. Snell were close friends. Snell and his English born wife, painter Florence Snell, had Sunday dinner with the Lathrops at Phillips' Mill for many years. Snell helped Lathrop build his boat, The Widge, and is fondly remembered by the family as Uncle Harry. Lathrop was also friends with John Folinsbee and Harry Leith-Ross.
Affiliations and Memberships
Elected to National Academy of Design, 1902
Academician, National Academy of Design, 1907
Lathrop was the first president of the Phillips' Mill Community Association, 1929. His son, Julian L. Lathrop, was a founder of, and taught at, the Solebury School. Julian's wife, Anne Goodell Lathrop, was educated at the Philadelphia College of Art and Design (now Moore College of Art and Design).
Lathrop was a member of the group of painters called the New Hope Group along with Daniel Garber, Morgan Colt, Charles Rosen, Robert Spencer, and Rae Sloan Bredin. The locals dubbed them the Towpath Group. They exhibited together from 1916-1926, and their exhibitions traveled to a number of cities throughout the country.
Also, Lathrop was a friend of physicist Albert Einstein, who lived nearby Princeton, New Jersey. They shared a love of music and sailing. Lathrop even built his own violin. Additionally, he was friends with John Folinsbee and Harry Leith-Ross.
William Langson Lathrop (1859-1938), Famous Artist's Sailboat, Trenton Sunday Times-Advertiser, 1931. Image courtesy of the Spruance Collection of the Bucks County Historical Society.
Teaching and Professional Appointments
Taught summer classes in the Poconos, before 1898
Taught students at his studio in Bucks County, transporting them from the center of New Hope onto his barge, Sunshine
Evans Prize, American Watercolor Society, 1896
Webb Prize, Society of American Artists, 1899
Prize, Society of American Artists, 1899
Medal, Panama-Pacific Exposition, Buffalo, New York, 1901
Prize, Carnegie Institute, 1903
Prize, Worcester, 1904
Gold Medal, Philadelphia Art Club
Gold Medal, Panama-Pacific International Exposition, San Francisco, 1915
Temple Gold Medal, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, 1922