John White Alexander (American, 1915)

John Alexander (American, 1856–1915) was an American illustrator and painter. Alexander was born on October 7, 1856, in Allegheny, PA. He was orphaned while still an infant, and was subsequently raised by his grandparents. When Alexander was 12 years old, he became a telegraph boy. One of his employers noticed his drawing talent and began working with him to help him develop that talent. Six years later, Alexander relocated to New York and began to work as an illustrator and political cartoonist at Harper's Weekly.

After working as an apprentice for three years, Alexander moved to Munich to receive formal training. During this time, he also worked with Frank Duvaneck (American, 1848–1919) in Bavaria. Alexander next traveled to Venice and later to Florence, Paris, and the Netherlands to continue his studies. In 1881, Alexander returned home and quickly achieved success with his portraits. Among the well-known individuals who sat for Alexander were John Burroughs, Oliver Wendell Holmes, R.A.L Stevenson, and Henry G. Marquand. Alexander's first exhibition took place in 1893 in the Paris Salon. He was subsequently elected to the Société Nationale des Beaux Arts. In 1901, Alexander was named chevalier of the Legion of Honor.

The following year, the artist became a member of the National Academy of Design. Alexander was also a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In addition, he was named President of the National Society of Mural Painters. He received a gold medal at the 1900 Paris Exposition, and another at the 1904 World's Fair at St. Louis. Alexander's paintings are on display in public places and museums throughout the United States and Europe, including the Brooklyn Art Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., and the Butler Institute. A series of his murals is also on display in the Art Museum of the Carnegie Institute in Pittsburgh, PA. Many of Alexander's works are based on a personal interpretation of humanity. Alexander was married to Elizabeth Alexander. The couple was introduced partly because they shared the same last name. They had one child, James Waddell Alexander II. Alexander died on May 31, 1915, in New York.


An orphan, raised by his grandparents, John White Alexander began his journey as an artist at Harper’s Weekly, first as an office boy then as an illustrator. In 1877 he studied at the Royal Academy in Munich. He established himself in Paris in 1890. Exhibited at the Paris Salon organized by the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts, in 1893. Two years later he became a full member of the Société and received a mural commission for the Library of Congress.