Having worked in France as an American Impressionist, Harry Van der Weyden then reinvented himself as a British painter, serving as a camouflage officer with Royal Engineers during the First World War, and producing a notable series of war subjects.
Harry Van der Weyden was born in Boston, Massachusetts, on 8 September 1868, the son of Henry Van Der Weyde, the Dutch-born American painter and photographer. Henry Van Der Weyde married Mona Wetherbee at the Swedenborgian Church in Boston in 1867, and migrated to London in 1870. The family was living at The Birches, Jasper Road, Norwood, in 1871, and possibly at Van Der Weyde’s studio at 182 Regent Street, Westminster, in 1882.
In 1887, Harry won a scholarship to the Slade School of Fine Art, where he studied under Alphonse Legros. In 1890, he moved to Paris, where he studied at the Académie Julian under Benjamin Constant, Jean-Paul Laurens and Jules-Joseph Lefebvre. Exhibiting at the Paris Salon from 1891, he won a third class gold medal in that year.
Having altered his name to Van der Weyden, he was soon showing his work at a range of venues, including the Art Institute of Chicago between 1896 and 1913, and winning medals at international expositions. His visits to the United States seem to have led to romance, for on 31 May 1893, he married Florence Victoria Moore at St Stephen’s Episcopal Church, in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.
At some point, Van der Weyden returned to London to study under Fred Brown, and established himself there, exhibiting at the Royal Academy and becoming a member of the Royal Institute of Painters in Oils.
Between the turn of the century and the First World War, Van der Weyden and his family lived at the hotel d’Acary de la Riviere, a large house in Montreuil-sur- Mer, Pas de Calais. This gave him access to the Normandy coast, which he painted in an Impressionist or ‘tonalist’ manner, alongside such members of the Etaples artists’ colony as Max Bohm and Irving Couse. He exhibited the results in solo shows at the Galerie des Artistes Modernes, from 1904, and as a member of both the Paris Society of American Painters and the American Art Association of Paris.
With the threat of war in 1914, Van der Weyden and his family left France and settled in Rye, Sussex, living at 15 Market Street. Between 1916 and 1918, he served as a camouflage officer with the Royal Engineers at Etaples, when it was a major transit point and storage depot. Responding to these experiences, he developed a reputation for his scenes of the war. While maintaining his house in Rye until at least 1922, he and his four children were living at 22 Temple Fortune Hill, Hendon, in 1919, when they began the process of naturalisation to become British subjects. Five years later, his father died at that address. From the end of the decade, he lived at 26a West End Lane, West Hampstead. He died in London on 23 September 1952.