Modernist painter and federal Treasury Relief Art Project artist Harold Weston (1894-1972) worked primarily in New York City and St. Huberts, New York in the Adirondacks. Weston was president of the U.S. Commission of the International Association of Art/Plastic Arts and the Federation of Modern Painters and Scultors. He was also chairman of the National Council on the Arts and Government and active with various political and humanitarian causes.
Harold Weston was born in 1894 in Merion, Pennsylvania into a privileged family. He attended school in Europe as a teenager, where he began to draw and sketch. In 1910, Harold contracted Polio which left him with a weak leg. After graduating from Exeter Academy, Harold entered Harvard University with the class of 1916 and was active in the Delta Upsilon Club and the Harvard Lampoon, for which he illustrated.
Despite his leg, Weston was determined to serve in some form during World War I. He traveled to Baghdad and volunteered with the YMCA. Here he started the Baghdad Art Club and organized exhibitions of soldier art. He remained in the Middle East until 1919 and served as the official painter for the British Army. The colors and the landscape of the region also inspired later works of art.
Upon returning to the United States, Weston built a one-room cabin in the Adirondack Mountains, where he lived and painted. He had his first one-man exhibtition at the Montross Gallery in 1922. In 1923, he married Faith Borton who moved with him to the Adirondacks. His wife inspired his series of "landscape nudes" which treated the body with different techniques that would typically be used in landscape painting. After suffering from a kidney infection in 1925, Weston and his wife moved to Ceres, France to recover. Weston continued to paint and started a family with Faith while in France. In 1930, the family moved back to the United States and lived in Greenwich Village, New York.
From 1936-1938, Harold Weston worked with the federal Treasury Relief Art Project and painted murals in the Procurement Building in Washington, D.C. The murals represent the growth of public buildings during the Great Depression. He took on a second major project to document the contruction of the United Nations in a series of six paintings. Later, the Smithsonian Instution received the paintings as gifts through an independent committee.
In addition to painting, Harold Weston devoted himself to public service by becoming involved in humanitarian causes, artist professional organizations, and federal government support of the arts. Weston served as president or chairman of three different organizations including the Federation of Modern Painters and Sculptors, the International Association of Art/International Association of the Plastic Art, and the National Council on the Arts and Government. Before the start of World War II, Harold Weston was named the Chairman of Essex County Committee to Defend America, which argued for financial support of the allied forces in World War II. After the start of the war, he helped form the Food for Freedom movement which urged American aid for European and Asian refugees. Similarly, Weston served as Executive Secretary for the Reconstruction Service Committee which was established to assist the rebuilding of Europe.
Later in life, Weston wrote a book Freedom in the Wilds, which combined his own autobiography with a history of the Adirondack Mountain Reserve. Harold Weston died on April 10th, 1972 in New York City.