Eugene Speicher was born in Buffalo, New York. He studied at the Albright School with Mary Cox, Lucas Hitchcock, and Urquhart Wilcox from 1901 to 1906 winning an Albright Scholarship. Speicher also studied at the Art Students’ League with Frank Vincent Du Mond and William Merritt Chase in 1907; and at the Independent School with Robert Henri in 1908 — where fellow students were Bellows, Hopper and DuBois. Robert Henri’s techniques (Speicher’s most influential teacher) can be clearly seen in Speicher’s work, especially his portraiture. Speicher and Henri conveyed subjects in a truthful straightforward manner, capturing the essence of the sitter without idealizing the subject. He limited his portrait commissions to six a year to spend more time on figure and landscape painting.
In 1910, after a year of travel and personal study in Europe, Speicher returned to New York and “from the first, Eugene Speicher impressed his teachers and friends by the same basic qualities by which he has attained the great position he has today. As far as I know, he was successful from the first.” (Artist Gifford Beal) It was a “confused” time when Speicher was building his career (due to the pull of modern art movements) but he emerged from this period, enriched by the experience, and more steadfast than ever, and he remained true to his ideals and individuality.
He summered in, and was associated with, the Woodstock Art Colony located in Woodstock, New York, and was described as being endowed with “robust health” and a “rich personality” that mimicked the “robust” and “rich” development in his art. One fellow artist wrote: “With robust health he combined the things of the spirit which so enrich his art.” During his day he was considered a stable “and brilliant tower of strength” in the art world. His work was praised for its breadth of vision, the beauty and richness of his color, and his ability to create wide and spacious forms. Both his peers and the public also considered him one of the best portrait painters of his time. Speicher also painted landscapes, mountains, harbors, farms, still lifes, flowers and nudes.
Speicher was elected an Associate of the National Academy of Design, 1912; Full Academician to the National Academy, 1927. He was also a member of the National Society of Portrait Painters; National Arts Club; Contemporary Group; International Society of Painters Sculptors and Gravers; New Society of Artists; Century Club; Boston Art Club and others. He was director of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, 1945.
He won numerous awards during his career including Proctor prize, National Academy of Design, 1911; third Hallgarten prize, 1914, NAD; first Hallgarten prize, 1915, NAD; Isidor portrait prize, Salmagundi Club, 1913; silver medal, Panama Pacific Exposition, San Francisco, 1915; Beck gold medal, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, 1920; third class medal, 1921, Carnegie Institute, second class medal, 1922, Carnegie Institute; Potter Palmer gold medal ($1000), Art Institute of Chicago, 1926; medal of the first class of the Corcoran Gallery, Washington, DC,1935 and others. The Albright Art Gallery, Buffalo had a large retrospective exhibition of his works in 1950, and the Academy of Arts and Letters had a retrospective in 1963. He taught at the Art Students’ League from 1908 to 1913 and again from 1919 to 1920. He had his first one-man show at the Montross Gallery in New York in 1918.
Speicher is represented in many museum collections including the Carnegie Institute of American Art; Smithsonian Institution; Metropolitan Museum of Art; Whitney Museum; Randolph Mason Woman’s College; Phillips Collection; Newark Museum; RI School of Design; Toledo Museum; Brooklyn Museum; Columbus Museum of Art; Woodstock Art Association; Sheldon Memorial Art Museum and more.