WILLIAM THOMAS SMEDLEY1858-1920
William Thomas Smedley is regarded as one of the most popular American illustrators of the nineteenth century. Born in Chester County Pennsylvania, his father was a Quaker minister. At the age of fifteen Smedley was sent to Westchester, PA to work for the Daily Local News. The editor of the paper recognized his young printer’s talents and suggested that he move to Philadelphia to attend the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts to study under Thomas Eakins.
In the early 1880s, Smedley moved to New York where his illustrations began to appear in popular magazines. In 1882 Smedley was commissioned to travel with the Marquis of Lorne (1845-1914), the Governor General of Canada, to the Canadian West and create a series of illustrations for “Picturesque Canada”. He also sketched while on his travels around the United States and the world in 1890. He was a contributor to major magazines such as, Scribner’s, Harper’s, and The Ladies Home Journal.
In the mid-1880s he traveled to Australia to work on a commission for Scribner’s Magazine. During this time abroad he went to Paris to study with Jean Paul Laurens (1838-1921) and also traveled to India. After returning to New York, Smedley decided to focus on his portraiture work where he was commissioned by the wealthiest of New York society for their portraits.
Smedley was very active as a member of the American Watercolor Society, the National Association of Portrait Painters, and the National Institute of Arts and Letters. He received many awards for his work including the Evans Prize, A.W.C.S. 1890; the Proctor Prize, National Academy of Design, 1906; and the Carnegie Prize, National Academy of Design, 1916. His work is represented in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., the Museum of Art at Brigham Young University, the National Academy of Design Museum, the National Museum of American Art-Smithsonian, the New Jersey State Museum, the Hickory Museum of Art, the Newark Museum and the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Australia.