John W. Alexander

(1856-1915)

John W. Alexander was born in 1856 in Allegheny, Pennsylvania. During his artistic career he was a dedicated member of both the Munich and Vienna Secession, associated with Art Noveau style. Alexander worked as an illustrator for Harper's weekly from 1873-76, before moving to Munich with a small group of Americans. He studied for three months at the Munich Royal Academy and traveled Europe meeting other artists such as Whistler. Alexander moved to Paris in 1889 for three years where he began to work with the Symbolists as well as painting portraits of literary greats like Mark Twain and Walt Whitman. Although murals made up a large portion of Alexander's career, he also worked with oils. His subjects in oil painting were usually figurative pieces showing a single female in a dramatic gown against a contrasting background. In 1895 Alexander was commissioned by the Library of Congress to paint 48 mural panels at the Carnegie Institute for which he would receive $175,000, the largest sum ever paid to date for a mural. Unfortunately, he died in 1915 before being able to complete this work.