William Preston Phelps (1848-1923)
A “plein aire” painter, he took huge canvases into the open, and built shelters around them to complete his landscapes on site. He set up his studio in Lowell, Massachusetts, but traveled widely along the New England coast and the American West.
In 1886, he did his most monumental work, a 7 x 12 foot canvas of the Grand Canyon, which he accomplished by constructing a huge frame on the edge of the Canyon. Technically he was a perfectionist, and since he completed his work on site, finishing this canvas was an amazing feat and the subject of much praise and curiosity.
He was born at the foot of Mount Monadnock in the town of Chesham, New Hampshire and developed a life-long love for New England’s landscape and people from growing up on his family’s homestead. He studied art in Europe for seven years including Munich and Paris where he studied the principles of landscape art of Pelouse and Guillemette. He had an early career in sign painting.
In 1878, he returned to the United States and exhibited at the National Academy of Design. In 1889, he returned to his birthplace in Chesham, where he stayed for the last twenty-eight years of his life. He repeatedly painted Mount Monadnock, landscapes of the Merrimack Valley, and some animal subjects.
Michael David Zellman, 300 Years of American Art