Thomas J. Willison


Thomas J. Willison


The American Dream

Oil on Canvas on Board

9 1/2 x 13 1/2 inches

Signed Lower Left

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T.J. Willison (1864-1940) was born in Brent, Ky., into a prosperous middle-class family. He spent his early years working as a salesman for his father's lumber company. He studied art in nearby Cincinnati during the Duveneck years. He is noted for his intimate landscapes of the countryside in the Miami and Ohio river valleys.

This is a little bio we came up with for our show about four years ago. Since then we have learned that Willison was at the Cincie art academy about the same time as Paul Sawyier -- we are pursuing that. His brother had a lumber mill at Brent, and Harlan Hubbard, in his memoirs, says he had his first studio in the Willison lumber mill. So there's another connection worth pursuing.

We have found Willisons in Vermont, California, the Bluegrass region of Kentucky, Brown County, Ind., and Florida.

An antiques dealer in Cincie put forth the theory that TJW was black. But Census records from the 1860s show a very well-off family, and there is no mention of their being black. The family farm was at Cold Spring.