Sawyier, Paul – American Artist

Paul Sawyier (American, 1865 to 1917)

Paul Sawyier was born the son of a physician in Madison County, Ohio, but his family relocated to Frankfurt, Kentucky, when he was young. Paul’s early inclinations towards art were cultivated by his parents, and in 1884, Sawyier enrolled in the Cincinnati Art School. Within two years, he had opened a studio in Cincinnati. After studying under William Merritt Chase at Art Students League in New York, Sawyier returned to Cincinnati and studied under Frank Duveneck. Sawyier then returned to Frankfort and turned his focus to local subjects, developing at that point his particular aptitude for watercolors.

Sawyier and his work achieved some level of popularity at the 1893 Columbian Exposition, where he embraced Impressionism, unlike most of Kentucky contemporaries. Proud of his status as a professional artist, Sawyier generally refused to engage in other pursuits even when money was short (which it often was). Between 1908 and 1913, Sawyier spent several years living on a houseboat on the Kentucky River, painting his surroundings. In 1913, Sawyier relocated for a short time to Brooklyn, New York, where he lived with his widowed sister. He then moved to the Catskill Mountains, where he died in 1917.

Paul Sawyier first met Mary “Mayme” Bull (1865 to 1914), also of Frankfort in 1887. While the two became engaged, they never married (a result of their caring for their aging and ailing parents and Sawyier’s constant financial instability). Little is known of their relation because Sawyier’s sister burned all of the couple’s correspondence upon the death of her brother.

Reference: Arthur F. Jones, The Art of Paul Sawyier (Lexington, KY: University of Kentucky Press, 1976).

Information courtesy of Cowan’s Auctions Inc., June 2009.

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