Editor's note: The following article was reprinted in Resource Library on February 14, 2007 with the permission of the author and Lakeview Museum of Arts and Sciences. If you have questions or comments regarding the text please contact Lakeview Museum of Arts and Sciences directly through either this phone number or web address:
Hedley William Waycott (1865-1938)
by Channy Lyons
Hedley Waycott was a gentle, kindly man... a self-taught artist who began painting for pleasure in the late 1880s and became a professional artist who influenced several generations of Peoria artists and patrons. He was the city's best-loved painter. His local and regional landscape paintings, primarily in American Impressionist style, were collected eagerly during his lifetime, and still hang today in homes and offices in Peoria and around the country -- "gifts of lasting beauty that enrich our lives," as newspaper columnist F.R. Oakley wrote.
Waycott was born in 1865 in Corsham, a small town in southwestern England. He was apprenticed to a London jeweler in 1879 at the age of 14. He immigrated to America in 1882, joining his father and three sisters who were already established in Peoria. Waycott was unable to find work as a jeweler and accepted a job at Newkirk & Pay, a shop that sold mirrors, pictures and frames. By 1894 the original owners had retired, and Waycott took over the business, renaming it Hedley W. Waycott & Co., "dealer in paintings, engravings and artist's supplies...china firing a specialty... manufacturer and gilder of picture frames."
Waycott made his first painting soon after he married Louise McFadden in 1887. She was a china painter and a watercolorist. One day, she was working on an oil painting of a cluster of yellow roses and asked Hedley to fill in the last rose. He was pleased with the result and decided to try a still life of his own. He put his completed painting in the store window and it sold.
Throughout his life, Waycott was an inspiration to local artists. His shop was a rendezvous spot for the artists. They stored their easels in the back room, and gathered after work to paint and to look at the artwork and frames at the shop. On Sundays, they set out from the shop on foot to paint on the hillsides and prairies nearby. Later they exhibited their work at the store.
Waycott was a member of the Men's Sketch Club, which started about 1888. He helped form the Peoria Art League in 1894 when the Sketch Club decided to invite women artists to join them and changed the organization's name. He was president of the League from 1914 to 1923. He was active in the Peoria Society of Allied Arts, an umbrella organization uniting the League, the Peoria Women's Club art and literature department, and Bradley University's manual arts department. By 1915 when a Men's Saturday Afternoon Sketch Club formed under the auspices of the Society, Waycott was looked upon as the dean of the group. At the League in the 1910s and at the Peoria Art Institute a decade later, he shared the techniques he had learned by trail and error in the classes he taught.
In 1904, Waycott closed his shop, committing himself to painting. He would, however, supplement his earnings for the next 30 years by making the exquisite frames patrons had grown to admire. His frames were masterful, decorative constructions designed and finished to enhance a particular work of art.
In 1910, Waycott sent a painting of a wheat field in full top to the Palette and Chisel Club of Chicago and won entrance into the club. He submitted a painting to the Art Institute of Chicago for their annual oil painting and sculpture exhibit of 1916.
By the 1920s Waycott had achieved enough recognition for his work that he received carte blanche orders from customers. They would tell him to "make up a painting that costs so much...you choose the subject. Make what you like to fill such and such a place. Include my card, and ship it to such and such an address."
His work was displayed at the Almco Galleries in Chicago in 1929, and when he announced that he would travel in the Midwest the following year to sketch and paint, Peoria patrons commissioned him to paint specific places, favorites of theirs.
In 1931, Waycott entered a large oil called Faith, Hope and Charity in an Independent Artists' Society exhibition in New York City. And in 1932, his painting Artistry in Snow hung in the 109th National Academy of Design exhibit in New York. It was a proud moment in his career.
Waycott's works were shown almost every year from 1927 until his death in 1938. The exhibit of oils and pastels at the Peoria Public Library in 1932 was the most popular art show held in over 30 years. He was commissioned to do works throughout central Illinois and his works hung in private collections in California, even India, as well as the Midwest and east coast. Today his works are still prized for their beauty and representation of the bluffs and streams characteristic of the Illinois River valley. In addition, they act as historical documents for their time.
Waycott made a living with his paintings -- and frame making. He knew that Peorians had definite likes and dislikes. "They prefer landscapes," he said. "That's why I paint landscapes. They want subjects with which they have intimate contact. That's why I paint Peoria for them."
A newspaper writer commented, "Waycott was gratified to believe that he played a large part in helping many people learn to appreciate the vast beauties of nature and have a deeper longing for the finer things of life."
Waycott's name symbolized art in Peoria. The city's arts community was very active in the first forty years of the 20th century, and Waycott played a central role in making that happen.
Appreciation for Waycott's work remains strong. His paintings hang in Peoria homes and offices, and are lovingly passed from one generation to the next. More than 220 paintings were recently located and included in the book Hedley Waycott: Peoria's Premier Artist, which accompanied an exhibition of 60 works at Lakeview Museum of Arts and Sciences in Peoria, Illinois in the fall of 2006.
About the author
Channy Lyons is an arts/community and women's history writer in Peoria, IL.
(above: Hedley William Waycott (1865-1938), Illinois Valley Scene, 1931, oil on canvas, 29 x 68 inches. Collection of Lakeview Museum of Arts & Sciences, Gift of John and Helen Royster)
(above: Hedley William Waycott (1865-1938), Melting Snow, undated, oil on board, 26 x 32 inches. Luthy Collection)
(above: Hedley William Waycott (1865-1938), Wooded Slope,
1913, oil on canvas, 51 x 45 inches. Collection of Lakeview Museum of Arts
& Sciences, Gift of The Art Institute of Peoria)
The exhibition Hedley Waycott: "Peoria's Premier Painter" was held October 27, 2006 to January 7, 2007 at the Lakeview Museum of Arts and Sciences, 1125 W. Lake Ave. Peoria, IL 61614-5985. 309-686-7000.
Resource Library wishes to extend appreciation to Kristan H. McKinsey, VP of Collections and Exhibitions, Lakeview Museum of Arts and Sciences for her help in arranging permissions for reprinting the above text.
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