Ernest Lawson

Ernest Lawson was a Canadian-American Impressionist landscape artist specializing in urban scenes using natural lighting. Born in Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1873, Lawson began his art education by attending the Art Students League in New York in 1891. He remained there for two years, taking summer courses at Cos Cob, Connecticut where he studied under J. Alden Weir (1852-1919) and John Twachtman (1853-1902). In 1893, he relocated to Paris where he attended the Académie Julian for the next three years. In 1894, the Salon accepted his paintings for exhibition expanding his popularity and fortune. He returned to New York in 1898, settling in Upper Manhattan. Lawson began creating his natural, urban landscapes, focusing on the importance of light during varying seasons and the effects it had at different times of the day. He textured his paintings using thick impasto, creating peaks of paint and defined his subjects with strong outlines and bold colors.

In 1905, he joined The Eight, a group of painters who opposed of the National Academy of Design’s strict rules on painting, after having a painting rejected for exhibition. Over the years, Lawson collected numerous medals and awards, including gold medals at the Pennsylvania Academy (1907) and the Panama Pacific Exposition (1915). He moved to Spain in 1916 with his wife and two children where he took up drinking and through some unfortunate events became destitute. Due to his alcoholism and other reasons unknown, his family and supporters deserted him. He took teaching positions in Kansas and Colorado in the 1920s then decided to move to Florida in 1936, where he remained until a heart attack ended his life three years later. Despite Lawson’s unfortunate end, his landscapes remain valuable and lend a window into the past.