Joseph T. Pearson (1876 – 1951)
Born in Philadelphia, one of ten children. He attended the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine art studying with William Merritt Chase, he would later teach at the Academy. Most scholars and the art-collecting public have forgotten Joseph Thurman Pearson, Jr., but during his lifetime, he was a renowned artist, winning prizes at all of the leading art institutions of the day. He was also a teacher at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. He was equally adept at landscapes, portraiture and in painting still life.
Pearson was born in Germantown, Pennsylvania in 1876, the son of Joseph T. Pearson, Sr., a box manufacturer. He was one of eight children, and his father attempted to bring him into the business, but his attempt failed. With his son’s interest in drawing, the elder Pearson had his son begin work in the office of Wilson Eyre, a Philadelphia architect and sculptor.
Eyre recognized young Joseph’s talent and recommended that he study art. Attending the Pennsylvania Academy, Pearson studied with two icons of American Impressionism, William Merritt Chase and Julian Weir, the latter being a major influence on his life.
In 1901, Pearson traveled to study the hard-edge technique of the Munich School in Germany and spent his summer in Italy and Spain. In Madrid, he was exposed to the painting of Diego Velasquez, and like Chase before him, the dramatic effect of Velasquez’s portraiture would have a lasting effect on his art. Several copies of Velasquez’s work are noted in Pearson’s estate inventory.
Pearson returned to study with Weir in 1907 – 1908, and in 1909, he was made an instructor at the Pennsylvania Academy; where, except for a brief absence in 1922 – 1923, he taught for twenty-five years.
Like his contemporary associate, Daniel Garber, Pearson’s strongest portraiture work is of his family. He executed early portraits of his wife and his mother, and accomplished later portraits of his daughters.
His early exhibition history features portraiture, but his first award-wining success reflected Pearson’s interest in the outdoors, particularly pictures of waterfowl: ducks and geese. His paintings, like the outdoors, are large. Paintings from this period include “The Pheasant Hunters” depicting a hunter and his dogs, and “Ducks in a Marsh,” for which he received an Honorable Mention at the International Exhibit at the Carnegie and an Honorable Mention at the Pennsylvania Academy, both in 1911.
In both works, he captures a moment in history. In the former, it’s a hunter getting himself and his dogs ready for the hunt; in the latter, ducks swimming and feeding in a marsh.
His landscape painting won recognition at the Pennsylvania Academy in 1911 and at the National Academy of Design in 1915 and 1918. In 1916, his painting of Peking ducks next to a river titled “On the Valley,” won the Temple award for the best painting in the exhibition and the Stotesbury Cash Award for the painting making the most contribution to the exhibit at the Academy Annual.
He followed this success with the painting that became recognized as his best work, a picture of The Twins, Virginia and Jane. This work was a critical success, winning the Beck medal for outstanding portraiture at the Academy Annual in 1917, and the Potter-Palmer Award of $ 1,000 at the Chicago Art Institute Annual of 1918.
Pearson was elected an Associate of the National Academy in 1917 and a full member in 1919.