Born in Belgium, William E. Schumacher and his family immigrated to the United States when he was an infant. Raised and educated in Boston, Schumacher returned to Europe to study art, entering the Dresden Academy in 1888. In 1890 he transferred to the well-known Académie Julian in Paris, where he came into contact with the artists of the European avant-garde. He was particularly influenced by Art Nouveau and the art of the Nabis painters Pierre Bonnard and Maurice Denis. The approach to color favored by Georges Seurat is noticeable in Schumacher’s early works, such as The Kiss, a painting that dazzles with prismatic hues. Schumacher developed a style that incorporated sound draftsmanship, reliance upon pattern, and the use of vivid color, applying these techniques to landscapes, floral still lifes, and genre paintings.
Combining modernist principles with his own playful artistic sensibilities, Schumacher’s skillful rendering results in pictures of brilliant illumination and color that reflect his sensitivity to nature. After returning to the United States in 1912, Schumacher adopted some of the formal techniques of Fauvism; in landscape and still life paintings from the mid-1910s, he worked in abstracting natural forms and increasing the intensity of his color.
Upon Schumacher’s return to the United States, he took a studio in New York’s Greenwich Village, where he painted and taught for two winters. He subsequently found a studio on 138 West 53rd Street. He summered at Byrdcliffe, a haven for artists and craftsmen in Woodstock, New York, where he was artist-in-residence from 1913 until his death in 1931.
Schumacher’s first exhibition after his return from Paris was at the prominent Daniel Gallery in New York. Proprietor Charles Daniel was a pioneer in showcasing the work of Americans newly returned from study in Europe, such as the modernists Marsden Hartley and Maurice Prendergast. Daniel gave Schumacher three solo shows between 1913 and 1915 and included the artist’s work in several group exhibitions. In addition, Schumacher participated in the annual juried exhibitions at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts over a twelve-year period. Schumacher lent two works to the Armory Show of 1913, the landmark exhibition that introduced the American public to avant-garde painting and sculpture.
Schumacher was the recipient of awards both in Europe and America, among them honorable mentions at the Salon d’Automne and a prize at the Pan-American exhibition in Buffalo, New York in 1900. Further, he was the subject of memorial exhibitions at the Woodstock Art Association and the Ferargil Galleries in 1931 and 1932, respectively.
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