Born in Dunmore, Pennsylvania, the artist John Willard Raught is closely affiliated with the area artists in and around Scranton/Dunmore, Pennsylvania. He is best known for his landscape compositions featuring rivers, river towns, farms and genre scenes from northeastern Pennsylvania.
From an early age, Raught showed an interest in art and a love for nature spending many days drawing and painting in the hills of Moosic, Moscow, and the nearby Pocono Mountains.
He was employed in 1872 as a telegraph operator for the Pennsylvania Coal Company's gravity railroad in Dunmore, PA. He saved his money to take art lessons and by 1880, Raught enrolled at the National Academy of Design in New York City. He studied at the National Academy for four years.
In the spring of 1885, he left for Paris to study at the Academie Julian. Primarily a landscape painter, Raught studied at the National Academy of Design, and in Paris with Lefebvre and Boulanger from 1886 to 1887. He traveled to Normandy, Brittany, Rouen, and Giverny, Monet’s home. Raught traveled to Pont-Aven where the famed post-impressionist, Paul Gauguin painted. Impressionism effected Raught's landscapes yet he was more interested in the work of the Barbizon school, a group of painters dedicated to capturing nature directly onto canvas. The Barbizon school, named for the forest of Fontainebleau where they worked and painted, was a group of painters active in the mid 1800s that included Millet, Daubigny, Corot, and Rousseau. Their artwork combined melancholy Romanticism with the direct observation of nature, referred to as "plein-aire" painting because the artist worked directly from nature rather than painting subjects from memory in the studio.
Raught returned to the United States in the 1890s and established studios in New York City and in his native Scranton, Pennsylvania. He also painted along the east coast to northern Maine. He was dedicated to subject matter that addressed the Industrial Revolution and its imagery of the coal regions of northeastern Pennsylvania.
Raught exhibited his paintings at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia from circa late 1880s-1910; Paris Salon in 1889; and the Brooklyn Art Association, the Boston Art Club, and the Art Institute of Chicago. The majority of Raught’s career artwork was produced in Northeastern Pennsylvania and New York City.
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