Reid, Robert

Robert Reid (July 29, 1862—December 2, 1929) was a leading painter of impressionist art, a teacher, and a gambler.

Reid was elected to The Lambs 12 April 1894 as a professional member. He completed three paintings for The Lambs, including portraits of Clay M. Greene and Charles Hale Hoyt.

Reid was among the founding members of the Ten American Painters, a loosely defined group of French-trained artists associated with Impressionism. Best known for his decorative figure paintings featuring elegant women enveloped in outdoor settings, Reid went on to specialize in murals. His painting Fleur de Lis (ca. 1895–1900) is in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. His “Five Senses” series is at the Library of Congress.

Born July 29, 1862 in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, during the Civil War, he studied in France, and later lived and taught in New York. Known primarily for his murals in the Library of Congress and other public buildings, he also painted bold, richly colored figures and landscapes in the Impressionist manner.

Reid was born into a family of New England clergymen. Schooled at the Philips Academy from 1880 to 1884, he was a student and teaching assistant at the Boston Museum School, an institution then known for its conservatism. He studied briefly at the Art Students League in New York then journeyed to Paris for three years of study at the Académie Julian.

While in France, Reid worked with the colony of French and foreign artists at Etaples on the Normandy coast, painting peasant genre scenes of a religious tone. Returning to New York he taught at the Art Students League and Cooper Union. After 1890 he seems to have been inundated with important mural commissions: the ​“White City” in Chicago, the Boston State House, the Library of Congress, and many private institutions. It was also at this time that his conversion to impressionist technique began to manifest itself. The Beaux Arts classical female nudes of his murals were now joined by easel paintings of loosely gowned women carefully posed in landscapes or sunlit gardens and rendered in vivid colors with slashing brushwork.

In 1897 he was inaugurated into the Ten American Painters, the youngest of that number, but affecting a dazzling palette that outshone the more somber tones of his colleagues. The decorative quality of his canvases prompted a major critic to dub him a ​“decorative Impressionist”; yet another called his work ​“sentimental” and ​“pretty,” all of which must have improved his sales in some markets. As Richard Boyle astringently remarks, ​“sentiment pervaded all the art world at that time. It was popular and it sold.”

The National Academy of Design elected Reid an Associate member in 1904, and an Academician in 1906.

His wedding to Elizabeth Reeves in 1907 was attended by many prominent artists, but their marriage lasted only nine years before she left him.

A self-indulgent and vain gentleman, social by nature and much given to gambling, in due course his expenses exceeded his income and he was impelled to retreat to Colorado Springs where he established an art academy and painted innumerable portraits to recoup his losses. In 1927 he suffered a stroke, but undaunted he learned to paint with his left hand.

Robert Reid died in a New York sanatorium in the village of Clifton Springs on December 2, 1929. He was 67. He is interred in the family plot in the Stockbridge Cemetery.