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William Thomas Smedley

Also Known as: W. T. Smedley, William T. Smedley

Westchester, Pennsylvania 1858

Bronxville, New York 1920

Active in:

  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • New York, New York

Luce Artist Quote

“[Smedley] has sought food for his fancy in the world of to-day, and has discovered in this world as much of poetry, of grace, and of moral elevation as any other artist of his generation and years.” Bigelow, Harper’s Weekly, March 22, 1890

Luce Artist Biography

William Thomas Smedley was one of the most popular American illustrators of the nineteenth century. His father, a miller and Quaker minister, sent fifteen-year-old William to work for the Daily Local News in Westchester, Pennsylvania. The editor of the paper encouraged his young “printer’s devil” to move to Philadelphia to study with Thomas Eakins at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. In the early 1880s, Smedley moved to New York, where his illustrations began appearing in popular magazines. He went to Australia in the mid-1880s to work on a commission for Scribner’s Magazine, and took advantage of his time abroad to travel to India and work in Paris for a time. Smedley returned to New York, where his illustrations sold for top prices, but in the early twentieth century he decided to focus on portraiture. (Pensler, The Illustrations of W.T. Smedley, 1981)