Walter Lofthouse Dean

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Walter Lofthouse Dean (1903)

Walter Lofthouse Dean (June 4, 1854 – March 13, 1912) was an American marine-landscape painter, commodore of the Boston Yacht Club and Vice President of the Boston Art Club. While Dean is primarily known for marine paintings from the Boston, Massachusetts region, he also developed many charcoal, pen and pencil drawings, watercolors and oil paintings of non-marine topics, including still life, architecture and landscapes. Dean was a recognized artist while he was alive and was listed in the 1903 Men of Massachusetts, along with Who's Who in American Art. Dean's most famous painting, Peace (see below: Peace), is owned by the US Government and was exhibited at the Chicago World's Fair in May–October 1893.[1]


Walter Lofthouse Dean was born on June 4, 1854, in Lowell, Massachusetts, in Middlesex County. He was the third son of Benjamin Dean and Mary Ann (French) Dean, who were related to several of the best-known families of the region. Walter Dean's grandparents, Benjamin Dean and Alice Lofthouse Dean, of Clitheroe, England, moved to the United States of America in 1829, when Benjamin, an engraver and designer, entered the employ of the Merrimack Print Works.[2] Dean's father, Benjamin Dean was born in Clitheroe, England in 1824, and became a prominent Boston lawyer and a US Congressman. His mother, Mary Ann French, was born to Josiah Bowers French, a bank president and former Mayor of Lowell, and his wife, Mary Anne Stevens of Billerica, Massachusetts.[3]

Dean had three brothers and two sisters. He never knew his oldest brother, Josiah French Dean, who died before the age of two. His second oldest brother, Benjamin Wheelock Dean, was a contractor who married Annie Page of South Boston. His younger sister, Clitheroe, was born in South Boston and married Charles L. James of Brookline. His youngest brother, Josiah Stevens Dean married May Lillian Smith in 1888 and became a prominent Boston lawyer and judge who died in 1941.[4] Dean's youngest sister, Mary Dean, was born in Lowell and married Walter Tufts.[3]


Dean was serious about his career as an artist from an early age, though there may have been some family pressure to pursue a more financially certain career path in the cotton textile industry. After graduating from public school, Dean left Boston to learn all details of the cotton manufacturing business at a mill in Tilton, New Hampshire. While at this mill, he learned all aspect of the business as an apprentice working at each of the machines and offices within the factory. Dean ultimately decided that he did not want to enter the cotton manufacturing business and instead decided to work full-time in art.[5]


He was accepted at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's School of Architecture in 1873, but left MIT to study the fine arts at the Massachusetts State Normal Art School (now known as Mass College of Art & Design) where his brother's father-in-law, Walter Smith (art educator),[6] was co-founder and Principal. Upon graduation from the Normal Art School, Dean became an instructor at Purdue University, in Lafayette, Indiana, in 1876. In 1877, Dean returned to Boston to become a teacher of drawing at the Boston Free Evening Drawing School.[5]

In 1882, at the age of 28, he traveled to France, where he first spent seven months on the French coast, sketching the local people and boats in Brittany.[7] He then went on to Paris, France to study at the Académie Julian with Jules-Joseph Lefebvre and Gustave Boulanger. These were two of the most influential art instructors in the world at that time. He also befriended Achille Oudinot (1820–1891), another very well known French artist who is remembered to this day as Corot's favorite student. You will see great similarities in Oudinot's work and Walter Dean's work. It is apparent that Dean enjoyed Europe, where he traveled primarily along the coastlines of France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy and England.[1]

Early life[edit]

In 1885, Dean fitted up a yacht of twenty-six tons, and set out on a four-month sketching cruise along the New England coast, visiting every port between Boston and Eastport, acting as his own skipper and pilot. Later he made more extended voyages on the barkentine Christiana Redman and the bark Woodside for the purposes of becoming familiar with square-rigged vessels. He had, however, been used to the sea and acquainted with ships from boyhood, so that this was no new experience for him. Early in his teens, through his love of adventure and fondness of the sea, he made a cruise of a month on a Gloucester fishing vessel to the Banks; and, when a school boy, he passed every possible moment out of school hours on the water. His cat-boat Fannie was long the fastest boat of her size, and took first prize in many races.[5]

Professional life[edit]

Enterprise, by Walter Lofthouse Dean

Dean settled in Boston, where for many years, he was one of the most prominent members of the Paint and Clay Club, the Art Club, and the Society of Water Color Painters.[7] His large picture Peace, depicting several units of the White Squadron in Boston harbor, was one of the notable works of the American section at the Chicago Exposition. His canvases were seen in most of the important general exhibitions for more than a quarter century. He was always fascinated by the sea and was a life member, trustee and one-time commodore of the Boston Yacht Club.[5] He made several voyages out of Gloucester on fishing vessels. Shortly before his death, which occurred in 1912, he spent an entire summer nominally as ship's carpenter (since law would not permit his going as a passenger) aboard one of the whalers out of Bedford. During this voyage, which was confined to the North Atlantic ground off Cape Hatteras, he made valuable sketches and studies of present-day whaling operations.[7]

Walter Lofthouse Dean died at his home in Gloucester, Massachusetts, on March 13, 1912.[8]


Peace, by Walter L. Dean, 1891

Perhaps his most important work, Peace (see image) is a large painting (9 × 6.25 ft or 274 × 191 cm) depicting the original US Navy fleet at rest in Boston Harbor. Peace was completed in 1891, exhibited widely from 1891 to 1900, placed in the US Capitol in 1900 and purchased by the US Government in 1928. Known variously as "The White Squadron" and "The Squadron of Evolution", this impressive fleet of white-hulled, ironclad, steam and sail-powered naval war ships was built to protect America's growing commercial ventures at sea in the late 19th century.[9]

An 1895 article in the Boston Sunday Journal had the following to say about Peace.

Peace is perhaps the best known marine work of an American artist. It pleased the public as soon as it was shown [to] them, for it was almost the first prominent attempt made to introduce modern war ships into real art. When the North Atlantic squadron came into Boston Harbor a few years ago, Mr. Dean anchored his yacht alongside the white war ships, and secured studies for his painting.

— Mahlstick, May 12, 1895[7]

The US House Resolution 5454 in 1900 states the following:

The bill proposes to purchase an historical painting entitled "Peace" by Walter L. Dean of Boston, Massachusetts. It represents "The Squadron of Evolution," better known as "The White Squadron," as constituted in 1891, lying peacefully at anchor in the harbor of Boston. This squadron is the nucleus of the present Navy. The Chicago as originally constructed was bark rigged, and it is in the foreground of the painting. The Boston and Atlanta are represented as brig rigged, while the Newark is bark rigged and the Yorktown is schooner rigged. These vessels have since been reconstructed to meet modern requirements, so that their original identity has been lost. "Peace" shows them as originally constructed, and is a means of keeping in view the type of ship which started the Navy of which every American is justly proud. There is no question among the minds of your committee but what it is perfectly proper that this historical painting should be owned by the Government and hung in a suitable place in the Capitol building.

The painting is 9 feet long [274 cm] by 6 feet 3 inches high [191 cm]. Wherever it has been exhibited nothing but praise has been bestowed upon it. It was shown at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1892 [1893], where it occupied a place of honor in the United States section of the fine arts department. It was then exhibited at the St. Louis Museum of Fine Arts, and afterwards sent to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. It was next shown in the art gallery of the Massachusetts Mechanic's Association fair, and later in the public library under the auspices of the Worcester Art Society. Later it was sent to the Tennessee Centennial Exposition at Nashville, and also to the public library at Bridgeport, Conn. Then at the Boston South End Exposition, and last summer at Poland Springs, Me. Where it was placed in the building which had previously been the Maine State Building at the Chicago Exposition. In all these places this work of art occupied the place of honor and received many awards.

There is perhaps no painting of recent years which has been more favorably received and commented upon wherever seen by artists, art critics, naval officers, and the public generally than "Peace." Mr. Dean is an American artist who stands high in the profession and has no superior as a maritime painter. He has made a life study of the sea and sea craft. The painting is entirely emblematic of peace. It was made when the country was at peace. There is no similar picture in existence, the idea being an original one with Mr. Dean. There are only two other marine pictures in the Capitol building, and they both represent war. There should be a painting of peace. Your committee, therefore, recommends passage of the bill.[9]

Peace was first hung in the Capitol in 1900, in the room of the House Committee on Naval Affairs. The painting remained with the committee throughout various relocations in the Capitol and, in 1919, to the Cannon House Office Building; Peace has been on view in room 311.[10]


  1. ^ a b Belanger, Pamela (2000). Maine in America. University Press of New England. pp. Vol 6 Page 1. ISBN 0-918749-08-5.
  2. ^ American Historical Magazine. Americana. 13. National American Society.
  3. ^ a b Hathaway, Clitheroe Dean (1967). Genealogy of Alice Lofthouse and Benjamin Dean.
  4. ^ Herndon, Richard (1896). Men of Progress. New England Magazine. pp. 124–125.
  5. ^ a b c d Herndon, Richard (1896). Men of Progress. New England Magazine. pp. 637–638.
  6. ^ Art Education, Scholastic and Industrial, Walter Smith, webpage:BG-F4: about Walter Smith.
  7. ^ a b c d Mahlstick, Roger (May 12, 1895). "Walter L. Dean". Boston Sunday Journal.
  8. ^ "Famed Marine Artist is Gone". Fall River Evening News. Gloucester. March 14, 1912. p. 11. Retrieved June 10, 2020 – via
  9. ^ a b House Resolution 5454. US House of Representatives. 1900.
  10. ^ "Peace". US Government. Retrieved May 1, 2011.