William van Dresser. Charcoal on paper, 21.5 by 13.5 inches. Signed lower left William van Dresser, Palm Beach, 1927.
William van Dresser was a well-known portrait artist who worked the east coast of Florida from Jacksonville to Palm Beach in the winter seasons with occasional trips to the west coast and the Bellview Biltmore in Clearwater. In January 1932 William van Dresser’s portraits were exhibited in Jacksonville. Groups from the Woman’s Club, Friday Musicale, The Pen Woman of America, Junior League, The Alpha Delphian Society, Fine Arts Society and the Host of Happiness Club, all viewed the paintings, and Van Dresser gave a radio talk on WJAX. In February van Dresser was further south at the Belleview Biltmore hotel in Clearwater doing portraits of guests. Eleven years later the Palm Beach Post Times, January 5, 1941, commented on Van Dresser’s painting, Florida Landscape, “If there were a prize for originality, charm and humor, it would undoubtedly go to William van Dresser, usually known for his fine charcoal portraits, who has also entered this year an entirely delightful oil painting called ‘Florida Landscape,’ which could rightfully be termed, ‘Goin to Town.’ It depicts a joyous young Negro girl, walking away form a backwoods shanty, dressed up in Sunday best, carrying her fancy high heeled slippers in one hand. The artist has framed it in red exactly matching the color of her jaunty hat.” Van Dresser had a studio for the winter season at the Boca Raton Club where he distributed a promotional pamphlet with a long list of his portraits including Charlie Chaplin, Albert Einstein, Lou Gehrig, Connie Mack, Mary Pickford, and Florenz Ziegfeld. Membership: Florida Watercolor Society; Society of The Four Arts. Exhibits: Florida Federation of Art, 1st circuiting exhibit, from the Art Club of St. Petersburg, to Orlando, February 1928, Portrait of Marjorie Carr; Jacksonville, January 1932, Chamber of Commerce building, portraits; Belleview Biltmore Hotel, Clearwater, February 1932, portrait work; Palm Beach Art League, February 1937; Society of The Four Arts Members Exhibit and later Sarasota Art Association, January 1940, two crayon portraits, Cornelia Dooley, Robert H. Baer; Florida Watercolor Society, 2nd Annual Members Exhibit, Palm Beach, January 1940, Xylophone Artist; Society of The Four Arts, Portrait Show, February 1940, crayon drawing, John Shepard, Jr., Einstein; Society of The Four Arts, 3rd Annual, January 1941, oil, Florida Landscape (A happy black woman walking away from a shanty, dressed in Sunday best and carrying her high-heel shoes.) watercolors, The Little Red Head, Miss Giles, Ozark Guide; Florida Watercolor Society, Society of The Four Arts, Palm Beach, March 1941; Florida Watercolor Society, 3rd Annual Exhibit, Society of The Four Arts, Palm Beach, January 1942, etching, Sheep in Bavaria; Society of The Four Arts, 4th Annual Members Exhibit, Palm Beach, March 1942, Miss Julia Ravenel; Society of The Four Arts, 5th Annual Members Exhibit, Palm Beach, January 1943, watercolors, Rufus Trupin, Dorothy Cherry; Society of The Four Arts, 6th Annual Members Exhibit, Palm Beach, January 1944, watercolor, A West Pointer, oil, Bridget O’Toole; Palm Beach Art League, Norton Gallery, March 1944; Boca Raton Library, open house to celebrate the first year of operation, April 4, 1950, charcoals.