Thomas Wilmer Dewing (1851–1938) may be the last important nineteenth-century American painter to receive proper recognition in the twentieth. Although Dewing died less than half a century ago, his once commanding reputation had predeceased the man himself by a couple of decades. He has had his isolated admirers since then, to be sure, but by and large even the public that has taken a keen interest in the minor contemporaries of Whistler, Sargent, and Eakins has scarcely been aware of Dewing’s work. As recently as the 1960s, some of our museums were even selling Dewing paintings out of their own collections.

The long period during which the Freer Gallery of Art in Washington was closed for repairs was yet another obstacle to anything like a Dewing revival, for it is only at the Freer that Dewing can be seen at full strength. When the Freer Gallery reopened in the spring of 1993, the museum’s Dewing room proved...

 
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