Thomas Worthington Whitridge-he would later drop his forename Thomas and change the spelling of his last name to Whittredge-was born on a farm near Springfield, Ohio, on 22 May 1820. By 1837 he had travelled to Cincinnati, Ohio, an important mid-western city situated on the Ohio River, finding employment with his brother-in-law, Almon Baldwin, as a house and sign painter. The artist first turned to portraiture, then to landscape, exhibiting three canvases at the inaugural exhibition of the Cincinnati Academy of Fine Arts in 1839. Moving to Indianapolis, Indiana, Whittredge entered into a partnership for a brief period with a daguerreotypist. In 1842, living in poverty and ill health, Whittredge was taken in by Henry Ward Beecher-brother of Harriet Beecher Stowe, the author of Uncle Tom's Cabin-who later became an important Abolitionist minister in Brooklyn, New York. Returning to Cincinnati, Whittredge sent a landscape in 1846 to the National Academy of Design, New York, which won warm praise from the Academy's president, Asher B. Durand.
Supported through the commissions of his Cincinnati patrons, Whittredge travelled in 1849 to Europe. He journeyed through Belgium and Germany to Paris where he spent the winter. Whittredge visited the French village of Barbizon but, at the time, was not impressed with the painters working there. In 1850 he was located in Düsseldorf, Germany, where he was joined by his pupil, Benjamin McConkey, who had also studied with Thomas Cole. Whittredge stayed at the house of Andreas Achenbach for one year, but did not become his student. He became friends with Emanuel Leutze, who asked that he pose for several figures in Washington Crossing the Delaware, and participated in evenings at the artists' club "Malkasten". In 1856 he left Düsseldorf with Leutze, William S. Haseltine, and John Irving on a sketching trip to Switzerland where they were joined by Albert Bierstadt. By 1857 he settled in Rome with Haseltine, Bierstadt, and Sanford Robinson Gifford.
Whittredge returned to New York in August 1859, spent a month at Newport, Rhode Island, and revisited Cincinnati, Ohio. By 1860 Whittredge was established in New York, taking space at the Tenth Street Studio Building. He was elected an associate of the National Academy of Design that year and the following year was elected a full academician. He served as President from 1874-1877 during which time the organisation was in a period of turmoil. Whittredge also became a member of the Century Association, Lotos, and Unjan League Clubs. In 1866, on his first journey to the West, he accompanied General John Pope to Colorado and New Mexico. The following year, at the age of forty-seven, he married Euphemia Foote at Geneva, New York, who was seventeen years younger than the artist. Whittredge returned to the Platte River, Colorado, and Wyoming with John F. Kensett and Gifford in 1870; the following year he made his final western journey. Many of Whittredge's finest paintings came out of his western excursions.
In the early 1870s he painted New England scenes in Newport, Gloucester, and Cape Ann. In the mid-1870s he produced a number of forest interiors of the Catskills, executed in a more Barbizon manner, a subject he returned to in the 1880s. Whittredge bought land in 1879 near Summit, New Jersey, moving the next year into his house, "Hillcrest, " which he had asked Calvert Vaux to design. In 1892-1893 he accompanied Frederic Edwin Church to Mexico, but the excursion produced only a few works. In 1904 an exhibition of one hundred and twenty-five of his paintings was held at the Century Association in New York. He completed his autobiography in 1905, an entertaining and valuable-although often inaccurate-document of the American art scene in the 19th century. Whittredge died on 25 February 1910, a few months before his ninetieth birthday at Summit, New Jersey.
Kenneth W. Maddox