Tryon, Dwight William, 1849-1925

Alternative names
Birth 1849-08-13
Death 1925-07-01

Biographical notes:

American landscape painter Dwight William Tryon was born in Hartford, CT on August 13, 1849. When Tryon was about 2 years old, his father Anson Tryon was killed in a hunting accident and he was raised at his maternal grandparents' home. At the age of fourteen, Tryon began work as a machinist at Colt's Firearms Factory in Hartford to support his mother and himself. He enrolled in evening classes at Hannum's Business School and developed calligraphic skills which supplemented his income.

In 1864 Tryon became a bookkeeper and clerk at Brown and Gross, the finest booksellers in Hartford and a gathering place for local literary people such as Harriet Beecher Stowe and Mark Twain. During his ten-year appointment there, Tryon self-studied art using the bookstore's large stock in art books and made weekend sketching trips to the Connecticut River. In 1872 Tryon was appointed Secretary of the Hartford Art Association and began exhibiting his works. In 1873 he exhibited at the National Academy of Design in New York. In that year he married Alice Hepzibah Belden whom he had met in the bookstore.

In December, 1876, the Tryon family moved to Paris, France to pursue art with financial support from the Cheney family, wealthy silk manufacturers in South Manchester, CT. Tryon received formal training under Jacquesson de la Chevreuse, a Barbizon painter Charles-Francois Daubigny, and others. He also attended the École des Beaux-Arts.

On returning to the United States in 1881, Tryon took a studio in New York and taught for several years. In the following year, he became a member of the Society of American Artists. Throughout the 1880s when the Barbizon paintings were highly regarded, Tryon's French-inspired American landscape paintings received international as well as national acclaim, winning him numerous medals and awards. In 1899, Tryon was awarded the Webb prize by the Society of American Artists for The First Leaves, a recognition given annually to the best landscape painting by a young American artist. In the same year, Tryon sold his first painting to Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919), a Detroit industrialist and collector, who became Tryon's principal patron.

From 1886 to 1923, Tryon taught at Smith College, MA, as Professor of Art and took charge of the Art Department. He advised on the college's art collection and acted as the department's representative in the New York art world. Tryon resigned from the College in May 1923, and in June of the same year he received an honorary Master of Arts degree from Smith College.

In 1887, the Tryon family built a house ("The Cottage") in Padanaram, a coastal village in South Dartmouth, MA, where they would spend every year from spring to autumn until his death. In Padanaram, Tryon made sketches which he developed into paintings in his New York apartment during the winter months. Tryon also took immense pleasure in fishing and sailing in Padanaram.

In 1904, the Montross Gallery in New York held a one-man show on Tryon's painting, and in 1913 they launched Tryon's Retrospective Exhibition. In 1923, the Freer Gallery of Art opened in Washington, D. C., including a permanent collection of Tryon's paintings.

Tryon died of cancer at his summer house on July 1, 1925, at the age of 75. Upon his death, Tryon bequeathed a large number of his works to Smith College. In September of the following year, the Tryon Gallery at Smith College opened.

  • 1849, August 1st: Born, Hartford, CT. Son of Anson Tryon and Delia O. Roberts Tryon
  • [1851 - 1852] : Anson Tryon is killed in a hunting accident
  • 1863: Machinist at Colt's Firearms Factory, Hartford
  • 1864: Begins work as a bookkeeper and clerk at Brown and Gross, Hartford
  • 1872: Appointed Secretary of the Hartford Art Association
  • 1873: Exhibits at the National Academy of Design
  • 1873: Marries Alice Hepzibah Belden
  • 1876 - 1881 : Studies art in Paris with Jacquesson de la Chevreuse, Charles-Francois Daubigny, and at the École des Beaux-Arts
  • 1881: Returns to the United States and settles in New York
  • 1882: Becomes a Member of the Society of American Artists
  • 1886 - 1923 : Professor of art at Smith College, Northampton, MA
  • 1889: Awarded the Webb Prize for The First Trees by the Society of American Artists
  • 1889: Sells his first painting to Charles Lang Freer
  • 1891: Elected Associate of the National Academy of Design
  • 1913: Retrospective Exhibition
  • 1923: Freer Gallery of Art opens, including a permanent collection of Tryon's paintings
  • 1923: Retires from Smith College and is conferred an Honorary degree of M.A.
  • 1925, July 1st: Dies at his summer house in South Dartmouth, MA
  • 1926: The Tryon Gallery at Smith College opens

From the guide to the Dwight William Tryon Papers, 1872-1930, (The Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives)


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Ark ID:


  • Landscape painting
  • Art, American


not available for this record


  • New York (as recorded)
  • Hartford (Conn.) (as recorded)
  • South Dartmouth (Mass.) (as recorded)
  • Japan (as recorded)