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Robert Spencer (American, 1879-1931)


Birth Place: Harvard (Clay county, Nebraska, United States)

Born in Nebraska in 1979, Robert Spencer is known for his participation in the New Hope Group and for his contributions to the American Impressionist movement.

Although Spencer grew up all around the country due to his father's calling as an itinerant preacher, he and his family settled in New York when he was in high school. In his late teens and early twenties, Spencer began his formal art education, enrolling in classes at the National Academy of Design in New York City and then studying under Merritt Chase at the New York School of Art.

After art school, Spencer teamed up with landscape artists Edward Willis Redfield and William Lathrop in Delaware before moving to New Hope, Pennsylvania in 1909. New Hope inspired Spencer, and here he co-founded the New Hope Group with other local artists. Though they shared a passion for the impressionist movement, Spencer's paintings differed in subject matter than other members' paintings. While other members of the group focused primarily on painting the landscapes of New England, Spencer's works looked at the people and industries that made up life in the Delaware Valley region. One of his most acclaimed works, "Repairing the Bridge," portrays a group of men on a typical workday.

His new approach to the movement brought about critical and financial success during the 1910s and early 1920s. In the 1920s, Spencer traveled abroad to Europe but was plagued by several nervous breakdowns. Sadly, Spencer killed himself in his studio on July 11, 1931. Today, his works appear in museums across the United States including the Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C., the Smithsonian Institute, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Art Institute of Chicago.

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