Art Education

Seton's Art Education

Seton is often described as self- trained.  That is a largely correct description with respect to his scientific studies and writing, but it is far from true with respect to art.  He studied under some of the great artists of the day in Toronto, New York, London and Paris.  His study time was interspersed with time spent in Toronto, Manitoba, London, New York City and Paris.

Informal Lessons and Apprenticeship - Toronto

Seton's first training in art came from a series of  lessons from a neighbor during the summer of 1876 when he was sixteen years old.  He then served as an apprentice in the portrait studio of John Colin Forbes for about two years. 

Charlotte Schreiber

Toronto School of Art

Seton enrolled in night classes at the Toronto School of Art  (now known as the Ontario College of Art and Design or OCAD).  He thrived undeer the tutellage of the faculty there, especially the artist Charlotte Schreiber, with whom he became close.  He won the Gold Medal at the close of the 1878-1879 Winter term.and

His father was proud of his son's success and agreed to send Seton to England for at least a year of study.

The Royal Academy of Artists, London

The Royal Academy - London

Upon arriving in London, his goal was to win a seven-year scholarship to the Royal Academy. He spent the first, austere, months in London preparing for the juried examination.   As a minor, he had to petition the Board of Regents of the British Museum for access to the museum. The regents included the Prince of Wales and the Archbishop of Canterbury. In December 1880, he won the scholarship, but he returned to Canada in 1881 due to ill health as a result of the poor living conditions he was forced to live under.  This was likely a major factor in Seton's increasingly bad relationship with his father.

Seton's often-told story of receiving an itemized bill from his father was probably inspired by his father expecting to be repaid for his expenditures sending him to London.

The Art Students League of New York

The Art Students League of New York

In the 1880's, Seton split his time between Toronto, Carberry, Manitoba and New York City.  In New York, he took classes at the Art Students League in 1884 and spent a great deal of time at the American Museum of Natural History where he met many life-long friends.

Acade'mie Julian

In 1890, Seton resumed his formal art education, returning to London and moving on to Paris where he enrolled in Acade'mie Julian.

It was in Paris that Seton painted his masterpieces, The Sleeping Wolf and Awaited in Vain (The Triumph of the Wolves).

He developed lasting relationships with many of his American classmates at Acade'mie Julian. Among them were Bert Geer Phillips and Ernest Blumenchein, who would soon found the Taos Art Colony, and the influential painter Robert Henri, with whom he became close and who spent a great deal of time in Santa Fe late in his career.


The Sleeping Wolf

The Sleeping Wolf (1891) by E.E. Thompson (Ernest Thompson Seton)

This work was painted in Paris and exhibited in the Salon de 1891.  The painting now hangs in the Seton Gallery at the Academy for the Love of Learning, Santa Fe, New Mexico.