Edmund C. Tarbell: Works from the Tarbell Charitable Trust

14 September – 9 November 2013

Margery, Edmund and Daniel
Margery, Edmund and Daniel, oil on canvas, 1935

OPENING RECEPTION: Saturday, September 28, 6:30-8:30 pm
Guild of Boston Artists member Mary Minifie will speak on the Boston School and Edmund C. Tarbell at 7:15 pm during the Opening Reception. All are welcome to a Encore Performance! Mary Minifie will repeat her talk on Edmund C. Tarbell & the Boston School of Painting on Sunday, November 3, 2:00 pm.

Just for Kids ages 8-14! Two workshops on painting in the Boston School style with Mary Minifie on Saturday, October 5. First session: 10-11:45 am; Second Session: 12:45-2:30 pm. Click here to sign up for the workshops: session 1 or session 2.

The Tarbell Charitable Trust was established by Daniel W.B. Tarbell, late of New Castle, New Hampshire, to preserve and make available to the public his personal collection of paintings, drawings and preparatory sketches by his grandfather, the artist Edmund C. Tarbell. In view of the long association of the Tarbell family with the town of Groton, and the fact that E.C. Tarbell was born there, Dan Tarbell requested that the collection be housed in Groton. With that in mind the Trustees and the Tarbell Art Committee have crafted a plan for displaying the works owned by the Trust in various locations throughout Town, including the Library, the Town Hall, and RiverCourt Residences.

Mary, Edmund and Sergius
Mary, Edmund and Sergius, oil on canvas, 1920

The inaugural event to commemorate this association between the Tarbell Charitable Trust and the Town of Groton will be an exhibit in the Owen Smith Shuman Gallery of the Groton Public Library. The exhibit will be on view from September 14 through November 9, 2013. The Opening Reception will be held on Saturday, September 28, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. All are welcome.

Edmund C. Tarbell, founding member of the Boston School of Painting, was born in West Groton in 1862. His father died in 1864 after contracting typhoid fever in the Civil War. Young Edmund, or Ned as he was called, then moved to Boston to live with his paternal grandparents. His early talent for painting led him to attend the newly opened art school at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, where he studied with Otto Grundmann. He graduated with Frank W. Benson and they went to Europe together to study painting at the famed Académie Julian in Paris.

Mary and New Castle Poppy
Mary and New Castle Poppy,
charcoal study, 1925-1926

In 1889, returned from their European sojourn, Tarbell and Benson began teaching at the Museum School under Otto Grundmann, their former teacher. Grundmann died unexpectedly shortly thereafter, and together Tarbell and Benson ran the painting program at the Museum school until their resignation in 1913. Edmund Tarbell married Emeline Souther of Duxbury and went on to have an illustrious painting career. He was a founding member of the Boston School style of painting as well as founding member and first president of the Guild of Boston Artists. He specialized in portraits and genre scenes of genteel women in well-appointed interior spaces, always with an attention to light, anatomical precision, and composition. One can see the influence of Jan Vermeer, especially in the later interiors. Tarbell painted presidents and other notables, including Woodrow Wilson, Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, and Henry Clay Frick.

The long-standing presence of Tarbells in Groton is best illustrated by the plaque situated on a crumbling rock wall along the road near 44 Farmer’s Row in Groton. The plaque solemnizes the 1707 abduction of 3 Tarbell children by Native Americans:

Near this spot three children, Sarah, John and Zachariah Tarbell were captured by the Indians June 20, 1707. They were taken to Canada where the sister was placed in a convent. The brothers became chiefs of the Caughnawaga Tribe and were among the founders of St. Regis where they have descendants now living.

Roses with Blue Ginger Jars
Roses with Blue Ginger Jars, oil on canvas

Of the 8 paintings on display, there are 2 floral still lifes, 1 landscape, and 5 very fine portraits including a self-portrait and a group portrait of Edmund’s daughter-in-law Margery with 2 of his grandchildren, Edmund and Daniel (founder of the Trust). Tarbell often painted his family, both indoors and outdoors with their horses. Also included in the trust are 6 drawings and preparatory sketches. Perhaps the most exciting example of these is a preparatory sketch for the painting “Margery, Edmund and Daniel.” There is an equally skilled preparatory sketch for the painting “Mary and New Castle Poppy,” a 1926 painting housed at the Baltimore Museum of Art. Finally, commemorating the lifelong friendship of Edmund Tarbell and Frank W. Benson, there is a sketch titled “Shore Birds” by Benson in the Trust’s collection as well.

Margery and Danny
Margery and Danny, charcoal study

Although Tarbell’s considerable fame was eclipsed by the advent of modernism, he was vindicated at the end of his career when he and his lifelong friend Frank W. Benson were invited to exhibit their work in a dual retrospective at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. That exhibit, titled “Frank W. Benson, Edmund C. Tarbell: Exhibition of Paintings, Drawings, and Prints”, opened in November of 1938. A few works from what is now the Tarbell Charitable Trust were included in that exhibit. Among them were the “Portrait of Mrs. Jonathan Sawyer” and “Margery, Edmund and Daniel.” Unfortunately, Edmund died after a brief illness on August 1, 1938. Although he did not live to see the final exhibition of his work, he parted this life with the knowledge that he was honored for his life’s work.

MCC logo

This exhibit is made possible by the Groton Public Library Endowment Trust. All works are on loan from the Tarbell Charitable Trust. The workshops are jointly funded by the Groton Trust Funds Lecture Fund and the Groton Cultural Council, a local agency, which is supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency.

Deborah Santoro

Selected Bibliography

Buckley, Laurene. Edmund C. Tarbell: Poet of Domesticity. Hudson Hills Press, New York, 2001.

Docherty, Linda J. and Hirshler, Erica E. Impressionism Transformed: The Paintings of Edmund C. Tarbell, organized by Susan Strickler. The Currier Gallery of Art, Manchester, New Hampshire, 2001.

Gammell, R.H. Ives. The Boston Painters, 1900-1930, edited by Elizabeth Ives Hunter. Parnassus Imprints, Orleans, Massachusetts, 1986.

Pierce, Patricia Jobe. Edmund C. Tarbell and the Boston School of Painting (1889-1980). Pierce Galleries, Hingham, Massachusetts, 1980.