Birney, William Verplanck (1858-1909)

Birney, William Verplanck (1858-1909)
Birney, William Verplanck (1858-1909)

William Verplanck Birney was an accomplished American painter predominantly known for his contemplative genre scenes. He trained at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich. He was a member of the Philadelphia Sketch Club and the American Artists Club. The Cincinnati Art Museum holds examples.


National Academy of Design in New York, Boston Art Club, Salmagundi Club.

Public Collections

Cincinnati Art Museum.



Born in Cincinnati, USA to William McDowell Birney, a professor of English literature and Union Army general during the American Civil War, and Catherine Hoffman. His grandfather, James Gillespie Birney (1792-1857), was a major contributor to the abolitionist movement of the 19th century.


Studied under Walter Smith at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design.

Trained at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts under Thomas Eakins.

Lived in Washington.


Trained at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich under Professor G Benzur and W Lindenschmidt.


Received an Honourable Mention at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich.


Debuted at the International Exhibition, Munich.


Referred to in The Art Collector.

“Mr. John Emmans is one of the art collectors whom Brooklyn has recently developed. Mr. Emmans is a tea broker of this city, but his residence is on the other side of the East River, where he has a house rich in admirable examples of well-known native artists. Edward Moran and his talented sons; Carleton Wiggins, W. H. Lippincott, David Johnson, William Verplanck Birney, J. F. Cropsey, George W. Brenneman, Richard Creifels, M. F. H. De Haas, Harry Roseland, C. F. Blauvelt may be enumerated among those represented on Mr. Emmans' walls. In the line of foreign art, he is the possessor of one of the most charming works of Léon Richet in this country, of a delicious, large Pinchart, of a fine landscape by P. M. Beyle, and others.”


Reviewed in The Monthly Illustrator.

“William Verplanck Birney, popularly known as a painter of charming household episodes, and pretty women prettily posed within old English rooms and amid the most picturesque furnishings, believes that his finest canvas is the one which shows him in his most unique mood - that of sorrow and tragedy. In the large painting, ‘Deserted’ there is as much dramatic force as can be seen upon the stage, and as a work of art pure and simple it is par excellence. Some idea of the principal characters in this pictured drama may be gleaned from Mr. Birney's pencil sketch, which is printed with this.”


Arrived in New York from Le Havre, France, aboard ‘La Bourgogne’.
Married Emily Lucy Middleton in Manhattan, New York.


Elected an Associate National Academician.


Died in Saratoga Springs.

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