Charles H. Woodbury (1864-1940)

Charles H. Woodbury (1864-1940)

A native of Lynn, Massachusetts, Charles H. Woodbury showed an aptitude for the arts at an early age and joined the Lynn Beach Painters when only sixteen.  Although a junior member of the group in terms of age, Woodbury was in many ways its leader, having exhibited the first Lynn Beach painting at the Boston Art Club in 1882.  He had already become the youngest elected member of the club when only seventeen, and Woodbury continued to have further success exhibiting and teaching throughout his career, even becoming a full National Academician in 1907.

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Woodbury graduated from MIT in 1886 with a degree in engineering, but he quickly began exhibiting and teaching fine art, working from his Boston studio on School Street and later at the Grundmann Studios. He worked as an illustrator for Harper’s Monthly magazine and Century magazine during these early years, and eventually obtained a teaching position at Wellesley College. In 1890, he married one of his students, Marcia Oakes, and together they traveled to Europe, where he continued his studies at the Académie Julian.  

Ogunquit, Maine, became Woodbury’s primary home in 1897, and the school which he subsequently established there helped to shape the town as a major artists’ colony. Rather than focus on technique in his lessons, Woodbury emphasized expression and careful observation in his teaching. His approach was also revolutionary, instructing his students: “We [paint pictures] primarily because we want to put into visible form some thought or feeling we have in the presence of our subject….” [1] Working with nearly 100 students each summer, Woodbury taught by example and individual criticism, eventually publishing his own book, The Art of Seeing, in 1925.

In addition to the Boston Art Club and the National Academy, Woodbury was a member of the Society of American Artists, the New York Water Color Club, the Boston Society of Water Color Painters and the Guild of Boston Artists. Today his work can be found in a number of museum collections, including the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland, Maine, the Indianapolis Museum of Art and the Fogg Art Museum at Harvard University.  

References: Earth, Sea and Sky, Charles H. Woodbury (Cambridge: MIT Museum, 1988); Boston Art Club; Hirshler; Howlett, D. Roger, The Lynn Beach Painters: Art along the North Shore 1880-1920 (Lynn Historical Society, 1998) ; WWAA; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Woodbury exhibition catalog, 1944.

[1] Charles H. Woodbury, Painting and the Personal Equation (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1919), p.95.  


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