Born in Bedford, Virginia, William de Leftwich Dodge spent his adolescent years in Europe, where his mother had moved in 1879 to study painting. Living abroad, he followed his mother’s example, studying briefly in Munich and then in Paris, under Jean-Leon Gerome at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, from 1885 to 1889. This solid academic training resulted in Dodge’s mastery of the techniques required for handling various media, as well as his ability to work on a large scale. Dodge achieved early success with several classically inspired works at the 1888 Salon and 1889 Exposition.
On his return from Europe, Dodge settled in New York City and established himself as a mural painter. Known primarily for his grand allegorical decorations, he fulfilled numerous commissions for public buildings and private residences, including the Library of Congress and Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. Dodge was also sought after as a portraitist and recorded the likenesses of prominent business, political, and social figures. His interest in outdoor painting was advanced in 1898, when he spent the first of three consecutive summers at the impressionist art colony in Giverny, France. Although his easel paintings are not as well known, he never abandoned this practice, composing luminous impressionist works in oil and watercolor throughout his career.
In addition to oil and watercolor painting, Dodge experimented with illustration (for Century and the Paris-based Figaro);taught at the Art Students League (1915, 1925-1929) and at Cooper Union (1916-1929); and designed and successfully tested a model airplane/helicopter that flew twenty-five feet in the Tenth Street Studio Building. Dodge also maintained an active exhibition schedule with leading institutions and galleries.
Throughout his career, Dodge continually traveled to study and paint at scenic locales. By 1903, he was reported to be one of the country’s most successful artists, artistically and financially.
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