John Henry Twachtman was born on August 4, 1853, in Cincinnati, Ohio, to Sophia Twachtman and Frederick Christian, two German immigrants. Amongst the several jobs, Jhon’s father had was as a window shade decorator, a profession that the young artist assumed by when he was fourteen years old. During this period, young John attended the Ohio Mechanics Institute before enrolling part-time at the McMicken School of Design. There, he met the American painter Frank Duveneck.
Although only five years older than Henri, Duveneck, who studied in Munich, would already achieve significant success in the United States. Twachtman was invited by Duveneck to share his studio and eventually return to Europe along with him.
In 1875, Twachtman enrolled at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Munich, studying under Ludwig von Loeffz. There, the artist learned the vigorous, broad brushstrokes and somber tones that were typical of that school.
Twachtman returned to the United States in 1878. In the next year, he became a Society of American Artists member. Soon, he took another trip to Europe, where he would teach at the Duveneck’s school in Florence.
Between 1883 and 1885, the artist studied at the distinguished Academie Julian in Paris, also painting in Normandy and Arques-la-Bataille in the summer. During this period, Twachtman’s art style would change significantly. His brushstrokes became more contained, and his color palette became lighter. He was possibly influenced by Jules Bastien-Lepage, whose artworks became quite popular in the United States. Although Twachtman was not very fond of Bastien-Lepage’s meticulous zeal to detail, he admired the penetrating quality of natural light displayed in his paintings. His knowledge of James McNeil Whistler’s artwork may have contributed to his paintings to become more atmospheric and thinly painted.
In 1886, Twachtman went back to the United States with his family. For a period, the artist provided for his family by painting Civil War battle scenes. He became a professor at the Art Students League in New York and started to create illustrations for Scribner’s Magazine. Soon, he was able to acquire a farm in Greenwich, Connecticut, a place that would become a significant inspiration for several of his best-known landscapes. Said period was known as his Greenwich period, which was mainly characterized by his layered and increasingly rough brushwork.
John Henry Twachtman died on August 8, 1902.