Eugene Speicher is considered one of the foremost realists of his generation who closely upheld the mantle of his mentor, Robert Henri. His reputation currently rests on his involvement with the Woodstock artists’ colony and has been largely overshadowed by the popularity of The Eight and the Ashcan School.
Born in Buffalo in 1883, Speicher began his art education by taking night classes at the Albright Art School while he worked during the day. He moved to New York in 1907 and began attending the Art Students League where he studied with William Merritt Chase and Frank Vincent DuMond, and in 1909 took life classes with Robert Henri, which he found of great importance to his formative style. Through Henri, with whom he became close friends, he also became acquainted with George Bellows, with whom he also became close, and with Rockwell Kent, Edward Hopper, Guy Pène du Bois, Leon Kroll, and a coterie of realist artists with whom he associated.
Speicher traveled abroad in 1910 to study and learn from the works housed in Europe’s great museum collections. When he returned, he discovered Woodstock, New York, and began to split his time between Manhattan and Woodstock, where he became an important and popular figure in the art colony.
Recognized for his work in portraiture, Speicher’s renown allowed him to support himself with commissions, and he also executed many flower still lives and landscapes. Always favoring female subjects, he was also one the few moderns to undertake nudes for which he also became known. With a strong technique and great capability as a draughtsman, Speicher’s compositions are analytical and methodical in their design and execution.
Speicher was named an Associate of the National Academy in 1911 and an Academician in 1926. He also participated in independent exhibitions such as the MacDowell Club exhibitions, which were small non-juried shows originated by Henri. Following the dissolution of the MacDowell Club effort, he became involved with the New Society of Artists, another organization of similarly liberal views who also held alternative exhibitions. From 1911, Speicher began to receive a steady stream of significant awards, and his work was acquired by many major art museums for their permanent collections.
He died in Woodstock, New York, 196