An American Impressionist in Paris, 1876

Walter Gay in his studio, ca. 1885-1890, Courtesy of the Frick Collection/Frick Art Reference Library Archives

Walter Gay (January 22, 1856 – July 13, 1937) was an American painter noted both for his genre paintings of French peasants, paintings of opulent interior scenes and was a notable art collector.

In 1876, Gay and his wife moved to Paris, France where he became a pupil of Léon Bonnat. A fellow student during this period was John Singer Sargent with whom Gay developed a friendship. Bonnat encouraged the young artist to travel to Spain, where he studied and copied the work of Velázquez. He also encountered the work of Spanish artist, Mariano Fortuny. These artists became an important influences on Gay’s brushwork, use of color and understanding of light.

Many young American artists who arrived in Paris in the late 19th-century became Gay’s pupils to the extent that the New York Times dubbed him the “Dean of American Artists in Paris.”  [3] 

His first compositions were still lifes, followed by depictions of 18th-century  French peasant life. Later he shifted to genre scenes of realistic depictions of peasants and factory workers.[4] However, from around 1895, he abandoned such simple peasant scenes, virtually creating a new genre with his depictions of luxurious interiors. He is most noted for these paintings of opulent interiors show-casing French chateaux and chic private homes. These painterly works display the luxurious detail of domestic interiors which included fine porcelain, furnishings, gilt mirrors, paintings and focused on the “spirit of an empty room” by avoiding the inclusion of figures.[5]

Gay was also a notable collector of artworks. Following his death in 1937, his widow donated some 200 works of Dutch, Italian, English and French paintings, drawings and illustrations to the Louvre indicating something of the collection’s importance.[6] – Walter Guy. (2021, February 10) In Wikipedia.

Long form articles:

A Charmed Couple. The Art and Life of Walter and Matilda Gay

Gay, Walter and Matilda] Rieder, William.

Published by New York, Harry N. Abrams Inc. (2000)

Impressions of Interiors: Gilded Age Paintings by Walter Gay

by Isabel L. Taube, et al.

 ISBN10: 1907804080 / ISBN13: 9781907804083

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