Edmund C. Tarbell (1862-1938)

Edmund C. Tarbell (1862-1938)

While American Impressionist Edmund Tarbell is best remembered as the leader of the Boston School or “Tarbellite” painters, his heart was very much devoted not to Boston, but to the coastal village of New Castle, New Hampshire. Tarbell was first introduced to the quaint fishing community along the Piscataqua River when he and his wife honeymooned there in 1888. Captivated by the coastal landscape and colonial architecture that also attracted Childe Hassam and Alfred T. Bricher, Tarbell soon began to travel up from his suburban home in Dorchester, Massachusetts, to spend his summers by the water. By 1894, he was teaching summer courses in New Castle with Frank Benson in addition to instructing at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, and had made it his primary residence by 1906. 

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Tarbell first met Frank Benson when they studied together as teenagers at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts under Otto Grundmann, and their friendship was cemented in 1883 when they both traveled to Paris to enroll in the Académie Julian. Fifteen years later, the two artists, along with such figures as Joseph DeCamp and John Twachtman, founded a group called “The Ten American Painters.” Consisting of painters who had seceded from the Society of American Artists in protest to the lessening of standards of the club, the group exhibited their Impressionist works in numerous New York galleries between the years of 1898 and 1919.

Tarbell’s presence in Boston was long felt, but in 1912 he left his position on the faculty of the Museum School and eventually became the Director of the Corcoran School of Art in 1918. His accomplishments continued over the course of his career to include exhibiting internationally at the Paris Salon, and nationally at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and the National Academy of Design, with his works earning a number of medals and awards. His success as a portraitist also spurred such important commissions as paintings of Presidents Hoover and Wilson, but he is best remembered for his thoughtful portrayals of women, often his daughters, caught up in their domestic tasks and dappled with sparkling sunlight. 

References: See Who Was Who In American Art (1999).;  Trevor J. Fairbrother, The Bostonians, Painters of an Elegant Age, 1870 – 1930 (Boston: Museum of Fine Arts, 1986) with artist biographies by Erica Hirshler.

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