William Baxter Closson Biography

William Baxter Closson




Painter and printmaker William Baxter Palmer Closson was born October 13, 1848 in Thetford, Vermont, to David, a Vermont legislator, and Abigail, a descendent of painter Benjamin West. Closson attended Thetford Academy and upon graduation he worked as a clerk for the railway. This proved to be short lived, however, as he wanted to pursue a career in art, and he moved to Boston to apprentice as a woodengraver with Samuel Smith Kilburn, simultaneously taking drawing courses at the Lowell Institute. He was soon employed by Century Co., Harper's, and a variety of book publishers in Massachusetts. 

From 1881 to 1883 he studied in Europe on a traveling commission by Harper's to engrave Old Master paintings. While there, he exhibited at the Paris Salon and began working on a unique engraving technique that allowed him to render works in a crayon-like manner, acheiving a softness to his compositions. After his return to the United States he took a commission to contribute illustrations to Louis Prang's Homes and Haunts of the Poets in 1886 and he continued to exhibit nationally. Feeling a desire to learn more about painting, however, he soon returned to Paris from 1888 to '89, exhibting once more in the Paris Salon, and by 1890 he had almost entirely abandoned printmaking for oils. 

Closson lived throughout the central East Coast for nearly a decade, establishing connections in the Capitol and becoming known as a leading Washington, D.C. painter.  He married Grace Worden Gallaudet Kendall, the daughter of Edward Miner Gallaudet who founded the United States' first university for the deaf and hard of hearing, Gallaudet University (then Gallaudet College) in Washington, D.C. The pair eventually moved to Hartford, Connecticut, where Closson died on May 30, 1926.