Like most 19th-century American artists, John Ferguson Weir went to Europe to travel and study. But he wasn’t all that happy about it.
On May 6, 1902, he wrote this letter from Paris to his brother, Julian Alden Weir. He said he regretted that his travels kept him from the glories of the American landscape.
I look forward to hearing of your going to Branchville and all that that implies. Don’t get too much involved in affairs—keep the paints and make that business the conspicuous first. I fancy you coming along the road with a six foot canvas over your back and the old fresh glow of enthusiasm over a good day’s work… No glories here equal—or quite equal the glory of a fine day at Branchville when we have come in for a fine dinner after good day’s work: that marks the high watermark of joy and happiness. Goodbye, old boy—I again look out the window to waft a zephyr toward you…
John Ferguson Weir
The two brothers and their father were all influential artists. John Ferguson Weir’s work, The Gun Foundry, has been called “the most important industrial picture of 19th-century America.” Julian Alden Weir founded American Impressionism. Their father, Robert Walter Weir, was a Hudson River School painter. He also taught art at the United States Military Academy at West Point.
In the letter, Branchville refers to Weir Farm, where Julian Alden Weir hosted artists who painted many landscapes of the surrounding countryside. Weir Farm is now a National Historic Site in Branchville, Conn.
This story updated in 2022.