A strong background in Academic painting provided painter William Anderson Coffin with the added ability to serve as an art critic and key figure in the early twentieth century American art scene.
He had studied at Yale University before heading to Paris to work in the studio of Leon Bonnat, an Academic artist who placed a great deal of emphasis on figure study and composition. Coffin remained in France for five years, where he also came under the influence of the Barbizon School of landscape painters as well.
He exhibited at three Paris Salons while he was studying with Bonnat, and would continue his exhibition work when he returned to the United States in 1883.
Upon his return, he settled in New York City and became involved in the National Academy of Design as well as serving as the art critic for major periodicals of the day. His writings were published in the popular "Scribner's" and "Harper's Weekly", among others, and he was hired as the art critic for the "Evening Post" from 1886 to 1891 and then as the art editor for the "New York Sun" from 1896 to 1901.
All this time Coffin continued to paint and exhibit, and became a key figure in two important group exhibitions; first the Pan-American Exposition in 1901 and the historic Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco in 1915, which brought together a world wide representation of the modern arts movement.
His works are in several important collections including the Yale University Art Gallery in New Haven, Connecticut, the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C. and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.