Lake County Ohio GenWeb

William L. Lathrop

As published in the Alumni Record, Painesville High School, Painesville, Ohio
Compiled and Published by the Painesville High School Alumni Association in 1925

Transcribed by Linda Jeffery, November 2004.

William L. Lathrop, ’75
Artist of Renown

One of the sons of P.H.S. who has risen high in the field of art is William L. Lathrop of the class of 1875. The subject of this sketch was born at Warren, Illinois. When five years old he accompanied his parents to Painesville, Ohio to live on the old Lathrop farm where his grandfather in 1820 had cleared the primeval forest to make a home.

Being a precocious child he started immediately to school in the little red school house in district No. 2 situated on the original Governor Huntington farm near Lake Erie. He began to read in the fifth reader and to recite geography with a class of young men and women from seventeen to twenty who attended only the winter term. Being small for his age, he created considerable amusement in the school. “Will” as he was known by his classmates had a love for the musical sound of words and it was not long until he could spell down the whole school.

At eleven years of age he entered the high school where his father had attended school when it was called the Academy. There was at that time the remains of the “Ohio School Library” on the shelves of the old Library room where many of the older alumni will remember being sent for discipline. Those books were a gold mine to William Lathrop and furnished much of his occupation during school hours as most of his school books he read through but once and seldom had to refresh his memory. The encyclopedia was an unfailing source of amusement to him. In fact “Old Encyclopedia” was one of his nicknames. If all else failed, the dictionary would furnish a day’s occupation. He spent much time in decorating the flyleaves and margins of his books with sketches of all kinds. His noon hours were generally spent sitting on the counter in H.C. Grey’s bookstore reading some book taken from the shelves or picked up on the counter. Mr. Grey seldom spoke to him but often squinted at him over his spectacles as at some strange bug, and at school time roused him with a poke and told him to “run along”.

By the time he finished high school he had fully determined to be an artist. His parents pled with him to take a college course; but no persuasion availed. He was going to be an artist and college would be wasted time that might better be spent in preparation for his future work. With parents very much “from Missouri,” getting neither help nor encouragement at first, struggling along with pencil and paper, charcoal and crayon, he showed more and more his ability.

When with a handful of little pen and ink sketches, all from life, one of them a portrait of his father, for samples he obtained a position in New York City as an illustrator in Harper Brothers’ Publishing house he seemed fairly launched as an artist. But illustrating is a phase of art almost by itself and was too mechanical for Lathrop’s bent.

Etching was tried next and proved a happy medium. He bought his copper plates from the local hardware merchants intended by them for far other purposes, and made his own press for experiments in etching. Later he bought plates and hired them printed properly although always under his own hand and eye as far as the “inking” went.

He grew prosperous, going abroad, walking through England for the landscape effects, picking up a wife in Oxford, taking a little run in France and home again to find etching killed with overdoing and the struggle for a medium of expression still on.

Water color coming next in order, with many misgivings he sent five small pictures to the Water Color Society Exhibition. They were accepted, hung well and all but one sold the opening night. He received the Evan’s prize for the best water colors in the Exhibition. From that time his success has been assured although only occasionally as recreation has he painted water colors.

The desire of Mr. Lathrop’s heart was always landscape in oils and so far as an outsider can judge that desire has been attained.

Twenty-five years ago Mr. Lathrop bought an old stone house on the Delaware River in New Jersey, not far from the little town of New Hope and gradually a colony of artists drawn by friendship and community of taste has grown up about him. This colony has become known throughout art circles as the New Hope Group of Artists. Of this colony Newlin Price in the International Studio says “On the old Delaware and Rasatan Canal stand Lathrop’s home and circle. A beautiful home built in colonial days around which cluster friend and artist in sacred association. For them with endless generosity Mrs. Lathrop pours tea each afternoon of the year. One cannot visualize Lathrop without his wife and family who make him the center of a charming and happy circle.”

Mr. Lathrop is a member of the National Academy of Design where this past year he received the first Altman prize for a landscape entitled “The Jericho Road.” He also b’ongs to the Society of American Artists and the Water Color Society.

Mr. Lathrop himself says “In art as in life, love is the main spring. Passion and patience is the formula for the greatest work.”

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Last updated 11 Nov 2004

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