John Whorf (1903 - 1959)
Born: Winthrop, Massachusetts

The artistic journey of John Whorf began in Winthrop, Massachusetts where Whorf was born in 1903. At a young age he displayed a precocious talent and was given informal art lessons by his artist/graphic designer father, Harry C. Whorf. Around the age of fourteen John studied with Sherman Kidd followed by instruction at the Boston Museum School with Philip Leslie Hale and painting with William James. The Whorf family maintained a summer home in Provincetown where John stayed every summer. By the age of sixteen, Whorf began studies in Provincetown with George Elmer Browne (1871-1946) and Charles Webster Hawthorne (1872-1930) who were, unarguably, the two formative teachers in Whorf's life.

In 1924, Whorf was given his first one-man exhibition at the Grace Horne Gallery in Boston where he remained an annual exhibitor for the next fifteen years. By 1927, Whorf was being represented in New York at the prestigious Milch Gallery, where he exhibited annually until his death in 1959. Whorf's Boston representation subsequently included the venerable Vose Gallery and Shore Studio Gallery. Boston art critic Robert Taylor remarked that, "Whorf's record of thirty-two annual exhibitions [referring to Boston, but with as many in New York], each selling out, will probably never be paralleled." With the cooperation of Milch Gallery, which served as Whorf's agent, Whorf occasionally participated in group exhibitions nationwide.

By the late 1920s and then living in the Boston suburb of Brookline, Whorf had all but abandoned oil paint in favor of watercolor, which, he said, suited his temperament, his eagerness to awaken his sense of immediacy. Traditionally considered a tint medium, critics noted that Whorf's bold, virile use of watercolor, and his employment of oil painting techniques - the building of color - had broken new ground. Whorf's transition to watercolor is also explained, in part, by a childhood injury - a severed sciatic nerve that resulted from a splintered hip after Whorf jumped off an old Provincetown wharf and hit a submerged object - that resulted initially in paralysis and then in a lifelong permanent weakness in one leg that made it increasingly difficult to transport the paraphernalia necessary for oil painting. Despite his disability, Whorf traveled widely and painted throughout Spain, France, Portugal and Morocco.  

By the late-1930s, Whorf had ceased his far-flung travels and had relocated permanently from Boston to Provincetown where he began to nurture an increasingly indigenous viewpoint, Provincetown, Boston and rural New England furnishing him with a wealth of material and atmospheric mood. His beloved Provincetown was a never-ending source of inspiration and subject matter, the handsome design of the trap boats and the town's quaint byways and backyard gardens becoming favorite subjects.

Among Whorf's many honors and recognitions are the Logan Medal, awarded by the Art Institute of Chicago in 1928, and his honorary Master of Arts degree awarded by Harvard University in 1938, Whorf being the first contemporary painter to be so recognized. That same year, Whorf was one of only two Boston artists to be selected by the Museum of Modern Art for its exhibition in Paris. The following year, the Art Institute of Chicago again honored Whorf with a special exhibition of his watercolors, alongside collections by Edward Hopper and Henri Matisse. In 1947, Whorf was elected to the National Academy of Design and, in 1948, to the American Watercolor Society. In Provincetown, he was a proud and active member of the famed Beachcombers. Whorf, who married Vivienne Wing in March 1925 and was the father of four children, died in Provincetown in 1959 at the age of 56.

Whorf's paintings are included in private collections across America and he is represented in major museum collections, including the Smithsonian American Art Museum; Metropolitan Museum of Art: Museum of Fine Arts; Brigham Young University Museum of Art; Brooklyn Museum; Rhode Island School of Design Museum; Massachusetts Institute of Technology, List Visual Arts Center; National Academy of Design; Art Institute of Chicago; Indianapolis Museum of Art; Addison Gallery of American Art/Phillips Academy; Provincetown Art Association and Museum; Pilgrim Monument and Provincetown Museum; Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University; Canton (Ohio) Museum of Art; Butler Institute of American Art; Baltimore Museum of Art; Pitti Gallery (Florence, Italy) and the National Museum, Copenhagen. 

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