1840 - 1916 | Historical Rhode Island Artist
Born in Fall River, Massachusetts, George William Whitaker was orphaned at the age of two and taken in by his maternal relatives. His uncles taught him draughtsman ship and engraving in New York City, allowing him to join the family business. This move to New York proved pivotal for Whitaker.
In New York, however, Whitaker felt pulled to the world of fine arts, as artists Alexander Wyant and George Inness noticed his talent. Through their influence, Whitaker went to study art in France at the Julian Academy under the artist De Paal. While in France, Whitaker was influenced by the Barbican School of art, which focused on rural subjects and darker palettes, a trend which remained evident in his art. Returning from France to Providence, RI, Whitaker recognized the need to nurture art in Providence.
In 1880 along with E.M. Bannister and Charles Walter Stetson, Whitaker founded the Providence Art Club. He also became the first oil painting teacher at the Rhode Island School of Design, teaching (1882-1885), bringing his knowledge of European art to the budding artists of the city. Whitaker also continued to produce paintings of the nature around him, keeping the dark tonality of his earlier work.
Whitaker’s legacy is not only in his breathtaking landscapes, but also in his desire to keep the arts alive in Rhode Island. He not only helped establish the Providence Art School, but also chose to teach art to young artists. As “Dean of Rhode Island Artists,” Whitaker proved to be a strong proponent for arts in America and in Providence.