Butler Institute of American Art celebrates centennial with exhibition

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Butler Institute of American Art celebrates centennial with exhibition
William McGregor Paxton (1869-1941), Sylvia, 1908. Oil on canvas. 49 x 39 1/2 inches. The Butler Institute of American Art Permanent Collection.

YOUNGSTOWN, OH.- The Butler Institute of American Art is exhibiting William McGregor Paxton and Elizabeth Okie Paxton: An Artistic Partnership through November 10, 2019 as the highlight exhibition of its 2019 schedule celebrating 100 years of great American Art.

Organized by Dixon Gallery and Gardens, Memphis, William McGregor Paxton and Elizabeth Okie Paxton: An Artistic Partnership is the first examination of the complex and highly detailed work of William McGregor Paxton in nearly four decades and is the first comprehensive study of Elizabeth Oakie Paxton and her career. The exhibition of over 40 paintings, rich in detail and mostly large in scale, focuses on Paxton’s consistent explorations of femininity. A selection of works by Elizabeth Paxton reveals how she pursued her own work while often serving as her husband’s muse. The William McGregor Paxton oil painting titled, Sylvia from The Butler’s permanent Collection is included in the exhibition.

Dr. Louis A. Zona, Executive Director & Chief Curator of The Butler Institute of American Art, has dubbed William McGregor Paxton and Elizabeth Okie Paxton: An Artistic Partnership “The Most Beautiful Exhibition in America”. Zona goes on to say that “William and Elizabeth Paxton were a remarkable couple whose artistry has long been admired. The Butler is honored to host such a significant exhibition as part of its 100th anniversary celebration. It was the founder who purchased a key work by William Paxton, Sylvia, and it is thus appropriate that this outstanding exhibition should be hosted here.”

William McGregor Paxton (1869-1941) is best remembered for his involvement with the Boston School, which included American Impressionists Edmund Tarbell, Frank Benson, Joseph DeCamp, and others. Inspired by Dutch art of the seventeenth century, their work focused on the domestic interior and featured young women reading, sewing, cleaning, cooking, and entertaining friends.

Elizabeth Okie Paxton (1882-1972), who was from a prominent New England family, met William while studying at the Cowles Art School in Boston where he served as an instructor. They became engaged when she was only eighteen. Elizabeth put her own painting on hold for the next decade as she became William’s favorite model and muse. Elizabeth returned to art by 1910. She specialized in still life paintings while maintaining a studio in their home. Her works included in the exhibition expose her talent and her keen comprehension of the spaces and objects that capture the substance of domestic life. Elizabeth exhibited her work in national and regional exhibitions, winning a silver medal in 1915 at the Panama Pacific Exposition in San Francisco. After William Paxton died in 1941, Elizabeth devoted the next thirty years to maintaining her husband’s legacy.

William McGregor Paxton and Elizabeth Okie Paxton: An Artistic Partnership is accompanied by a full color catalogue, written by Jane Ward Faquin, guest curator and former Dixon Curator of Education. The accompanying catalogue is available through The Butler’s museum store.

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