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Edmund Charles Tarbell

Edmund Charles Tarbell

Edmund Charles Tarbell

Edmund Charles Tarbell

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Edmund Charles Tarbell (April 26, 1862 – August 1, 1938) was an American Impressionist painter. A member of the Ten American Painters, his work hangs in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Metropolitan Museum of Art, National Gallery of Art, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Corcoran Gallery of Art, DeYoung Museum, National Academy Museum and School, New Britain Museum of American Art, Worcester Art Museum, and numerous other collections. He was a leading member of a group of painters which came to be known as the Boston School.

Edmund C. Tarbell was born in the Asa Tarbell House, which stands beside the Squannacook River in West Groton, Massachusetts. His father, Edmund Whitney Tarbell, died in 1863 after contracting typhoid fever while serving in the Civil War. His mother, Mary Sophia (Fernald) Tarbell, remarried a shoemaking-machine manufacturer. Young "Ned" (as he was nicknamed) and his older sister, Nellie Sophia, were left to be raised by their paternal grandparents in Groton, a frontier town during the French and Indian Wars that the early Tarbell family helped settle.

As a youth, Tarbell took evening art lessons from George H. Bartlett at the Massachusetts Normal Art School. Between 1877 and 1880, he apprenticed at the Forbes Lithographic Company in Boston. In 1879, he entered the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, studying under Otto Grundmann. He matriculated in the same class with Robert Lewis Reid and Frank Weston Benson, two other future members of the Ten American Painters.

Tarbell was encouraged to continue his education in Paris, France, then center of the art world. Consequently, in 1883 he entered the Académie Julian to study under Gustave Boulanger and Jules Joseph Lefebvre. Paris exposed him to rigorous academic training, which invariably included copying Old Master paintings at the Louvre, but also to the Impressionist movement then sweeping the city's galleries. That duality would inform his work. In 1884, Tarbell's education included a Grand Tour to Italy, and the following year to Italy, Belgium, Germany and Brittany.

Tarbell returned to Boston in 1886, where he began his career as an illustrator, private art instructor and portrait painter.

Two years after returning to Boston, at age 26 Tarbell married Emeline Souther, an art student and daughter of a prominent Dorchester family. Preferring to work from posed models, Tarbell often painted those immediately at hand—his wife, four children (Josephine, Mercie, Mary and Edmund Arnold Tarbell), and grandchildren. The paintings illustrate their lives.

While teaching at the Museum School in Boston, Tarbell and his family lived from 1886 until 1906 in the Ashmont section of Dorchester, the house belonging to his stepfather, David Frank Hartford. Then they lived on Commonwealth Avenue in Boston at the Hotel Somerset, located beside The Fens and not far from his atelier in the Fenway Studios on Ipswich Street.

In 1905, they bought as a summer residence a Greek Revival house in New Castle, New Hampshire, an island on the Atlantic coast. Tarbell built his studio perched on the bank of the Piscataqua River, ambling there each morning along gardens of peonies, iris and hollyhocks. Through his north-facing wall of glass he could sketch sailboats as they tacked the busy shipping channel between Portsmouth and the ocean. He was an early and avid proponent of the Colonial Revival movement, collecting American antiques (back when most were considered used furniture) and arranging them with Chinese ceramics, Japanese prints and other objets d'art as studio props. Tarbell also collected salvaged architectural elements; his studio's facade featured a Federal fanlight doorway. In the new living room added to the main house, he installed a Georgian mantelpiece attributed to Ebenezer Dearing (1730–1791), a master Portsmouth ship woodcarver. The Tarbells eventually would retire to New Castle.

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Edmund Charles Tarbell Artworks
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