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HomeContents > People > Photographers > William W. Renwick

Born: William Whetten Renwick 
Dates:  1865 - 1933, 15 March
Born:  US, MA, Lenox
Died:  US

Preparing biographies

Approved biography for William W. Renwick
(Courtesy of Christian Peterson)

William Whetten Renwick was born in 1865 in Lenox, Massachusetts, but by 1880 was living with his family in Millburn, New Jersey.
In 1885, Renwick earned a degree in mechanical engineering from the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey. For three years, he studied painting and sculpture in Paris and Rome, and then trained in the New York office of his uncle, James Renwick, the architect of St. Patrick’s Cathedral. The junior Renwick designed various decorative and architectural forms, among his most important the open-air pulpit of New York’s Grace Church. After 1900, Renwick worked on his own, devoting his time almost exclusively to ecclesiastical commissions for alters, monuments, memorials, and churches. He became widely known for developing the "fresco-relief" process of mural decoration, which combined sculpture and painting. He was the architect for New York’s Church of St. Aloysius (1904) and the Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul, in Indianapolis (1907).
Renwick first exhibited photographs in the fourth Joint Exhibition of 1891, showing six portraits. He joined the Camera Club of New York in 1898 and exhibited in at least two of its members’ shows. In early 1901, the club gave him a solo exhibition of about fifty prints. Later that year, Alfred Stieglitz included a photogravure by Renwick in the club’s high-quality quarterly Camera Notes. This image, of a reclining female nude with flowers in her hair, suggested the influence of French pictorialists like Robert Demachy, who specialized in this kind of subject matter. Six years later, the same image was also included as a photogravure in the October 1907 issue of Camera Work.
Stieglitz obviously liked this piece, also including it in the inaugural exhibition of the Photo-Secession, presented in 1902 at New York’s National Arts Club. Although he never listed Renwick as a member of this elite group, he, nonetheless selected his work for other shows, including the 1902 Esposizione Internazionale d’Arte Decorative Moderna in Turin, where it won an honorable mention. Two years later, Renwick’s photographs also appeared in the Photo-Secession exhibitions at the Carnegie Institute in Pittsburgh and the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.
Renwick remained tied to his boyhood home of Millburn, compiling in 1906 a report on the mosquito problem there. In 1920, he moved his office from New York to Short Hills, New Jersey (just north of Millburn), now concentrating on planning country houses and their landscape architecture.
William W. Renwick was a member of the American Institute of Architects, the Architectural League of New York, and the National Sculpture Society. He died in his Short Hills home, on March 15, 1933. 
Christian A. Peterson Pictorial Photography at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (Christian A. Peterson: Privately printed, 2012) 
This biography is courtesy and copyright of Christian Peterson and is included here with permission. 
Date last updated: 1 June 2013. 
We welcome institutions and scholars willing to test the sharing of biographies for the benefit of the photo-history community. The biography above is a part of this trial.
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