Painter and teacher. A tonalist, Tryon painted landscapes and seascapes in which his subtle manipulation of atmosphere and mood were key elements. Charles Lang Freer was his avid patron and many of Tryon’s paintings are in the Freer Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.
Joan Stahl American Artists in Photographic Portraits from the Peter A. Juley & Son Collection (Washington, D.C. and Mineola, New York: National Museum of American Art and Dover Publications, Inc., 1995)
Dwight W. Tryon, as a youth, seemingly without formal training, painted landscapes in the vicinity of his native Hartford, Connecticut. He sold all his works at auction to finance a trip to Paris, where he studied with the renowned Barbizon landscapists Charles Daubigny and Henri Harpignies. Other influences on Tryon’s work derived from Corot and Whistler. From the outset he was committed to the Barbizon mode.
Just before the Civil War, William Morris Hunt had introduced the Barbizon style to an enthusiastic Boston audience. The gritty realities of postwar urban living had imposed a need for a quieter, more poetic view of nature than the giantism of Church and Bierstadt. In the 1880s and 1890s, Americans responded warmly to these serene and muted depictions of a natural environment, which was slipping away. During the 1890s, Tryon’s painting progressed from the massy forms and somber harmonies of his earlier Barbizon style toward the lighter, more poetic monochromatic palette of tonalism, seen in the work currently on display.
These pleasing bucolic works fulfilled an urgent need and brought Tryon a success and affluence that eluded many of his contemporaries. Like Dewing and Thayer he luxuriated in the generous patronage of Charles Lang Freer, and many of his works hang in the Freer Gallery in Washington, D.C. In 1893 he was commissioned to decorate the walls of Freer’s Detroit mansion with a series of murals depicting the changing seasons.
For almost forty years Tryon enjoyed the security of a professorship at Smith College, in Northampton, Massachusetts, and at the end of his career bestowed an art museum on the college. In 1925 he died at his home in South Dartmouth, Massachusetts, not far from the entrance to Cape Cod.
Emery Battis Artist Biographies for the exhibition American Impressionism: Treasures from the Smithsonian American Art Museum (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2000)