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William McGregor Paxton and Elizabeth Okie Paxton: An Artistic Partnership

Woman seated

William McGregor Paxton, Sylvia, Oil on canvas, 49 x 39 1/2 inches.

August 18 – November 10, 2019


This exhibition examines the relationship between these two talented individuals, William McGregor Paxton and Elizabeth Okie Paxton, who were an important part of the Boston School of painters at the turn of the twentieth century. Together their careers spanned almost five decades, and they were married for over forty years. During that time, the Paxtons experienced many changes, both personal and artistic, which affected their careers and which this exhibition aims to document.


Elizabeth Okie Paxton (1878–1972) is best remembered as a still life painter. She first met William Paxton while still a teen-aged student at the Cowles Art School in Boston. For the next ten years she served as his chief model and muse, letting her own career take a back seat to his. Later she returned to painting, concentrating on intimate still life compositions featuring familiar and readily available objects that she created in her home studio. After her husband’s death in 1941, she once again gave up her own art to focus on promoting his art and legacy. Her work, although included in some previous exhibitions of women painters, has never before been the subject of individual study.


The other half of this marital and artistic partnership was William McGregor Paxton (1869– 1941). Like many of his contemporaries in the Boston School, Paxton had studied abroad and, inspired by the work of seventeenth century Dutch painters, particularly Jan Vermeer, concentrated on creating images of young women in domestic interiors. In his later years, Paxton, skeptical of the modernism that emerged after World War I, became an advocate for the atelier method of artistic study, which he had experienced in Paris with his mentor Jean-Léon Gérôme.


William McGregor Paxton and Elizabeth Okie Paxton: An Artistic Partnership is the first look at the work of William Paxton in nearly four decades, and is the first comprehensive study of Elizabeth Paxton and her career. Through a representative selection of each artist’s paintings, the exhibition examines the Paxtons’ art, their marriage, and their ever-evolving partnership.


This exhibition was organized by Dixon Gallery and Gardens in Memphis, Tennessee.


Exhibition, Featured Art


August 18, 2019 - November 10, 2019


The Butler Institute of American Art
524 Wick Avenue
Youngstown, OH 44502