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Like many of his contemporaries, William McGregor Paxton studied at the Académie Julian in Paris. After returning to Boston, he applied his new skills to the depiction of the American middle class, producing portraits and idyllic domestic scenes. Paxton taught at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts School from 1906 to 1913. He was a co-founder of The Guild of Boston Artists and is associated with the Boston School.
Paxton was well known for the attention he gave to the effects of light and detail in flesh and fabric. His works often present idealized views of women, such as this portrait of his wife Elizabeth.
While in France, William Paxton studied with the celebrated French artist, Jean-Léon Gérôme (1824–1904). Like several of Boston colleagues, Paxton was also inspired by the seventeenth-century Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer (1632–1675).