Sunday, February 9, 2020

John Wesley Little - The Artist From Picture Rocks

Between Showers, by J. Wesley Little

If you are shopping our local flea markets, estate sales, and thrift stores, check those watercolor paintings for the signature of J. Wesley Little.  Not only are his watercolors valued at between $300 and $600, but he was a local boy, from Picture Rocks.  A large collection of his paintings are owned by Bucknell University - as Little paid his children's college tuition in paintings, rather than in cash.


John Wesley Little came to Picture Rocks from Forksville Pa, as a young child.  His father, John Polhemus Little, established a wood manufacturing business in the town.
Born in 1867, he a twin, and the youngest of nine children.   His twin died while fighting in the civil war.
Old Rover by J. Wesley Little
In the collection of the Samek Art Museum at Bucknell University

In 1884 John entered a pencil sketch for a dog titled "Old Rover" in a local art contest.  Encouraged by friends, he then went to the  National Academy of Design in New York.  He studied there  for 6 years, from 1888-1894.

Little's grandfather, Theopholis Little, was a revolutionary war soldier who purchased tracts of land in Sullivan County, and was instrumental in the development of Eagles Mere. It was there, by Lewis Lake, that J. Wesley Little taught art classes at the Eagles mere Chautauqua Association, for five summers.  Classes cost $2.50 per a week. During the winter months  he painted watercolors based on sketches me made throughout the year.

In 1899 Little traveled to France to paint and travel, returning in time to teach classes in Eaglesmere that summer. He made a second trip abroad years later.

After marrying Susan Heim, the couple settled in Fort Washington Pa, near enough to Philadelphia for Little to join the Sketch and Water Color Clubs of Philadelphia.

A John Wesley Little Watercolor Landscape
Hanging in the Taber Museum, Williamsport Pa

Little studied under the direction of such prolific artiss as Thomas Eakin and Leonard Ochtman, and was greatly influenced English landscape artist Sir Alfred East.

Little's art often featured pastoral scenes depicting herds of sheep  and cattle, reflecting the natural beauty of his native Pennsylvania. His work was exhibited at the St. Louis and Panama-Pacific Expositions, and before the American Water Color Society in New York.  

In 1901 he was awarded the silver medal of the American Art Society. That same year, his paintings were on display at Bucknell University in Lewisburg.  Little and his wife had three children , all of whom graduated from Bucknell.  Their father paid their tuition in paintings, rather than in cash.

In 1905, Little moved his family back to his hometown of Picture Rocks, where he lived until his death in 1923.

Little died in Picture Rocks in September of 1923, at the age of 57.  

His obituary read, in part:
"J. Wesley Little was one of the best known native Pennsylvania Artists.  He was born in Sullivan County and studied in France.  In his particular medium, that of water color, he developed an individual technique which won him favorable recognition wherever he exhibited, and he was awarded medals and honors at exhibitions.
His best known works are Pennsylvania pastoral scenes and landscapes, painted in the West Branch and Muncy Creek valleys near his home."

Where To See His Work:

There is an out of print book on the life of John Wesley Little, published in 1966

John Wesley Little 1867-1933 Biography of an Artist 



  1. I have a framed (old frame) of a John Wesley Little watercolor. It hung in the house I grew up in in Williamsport. I also have a out of print book. I would like to sell the watercolor. To whom would you direct me?

    1. I'm sorry - I have no idea who might be best at that. Maybe ebay? I really do not know.

  2. Do you still have the watercolor? If so please email at


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