Currier Gallery of Art

Manchester, NH



Impressionism Transformed: The Paintings of Edmund C. Tarbell

October 13, 2001 - January 13, 2002


A nationally admired American impressionist, he was renowned for his refined and distinctly New England interiors as well as vibrant outdoor paintings of his family. A member of Boston's Tavern and St. Botolph's clubs, he was also known to join a game of scrub baseball with workers from the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. He led two of the most prestigious art schools in the Northeast - yet, he got himself expelled from high school to avoid college, so he could paint full-time. Growing up in Boston, living for 30 years in New Castle, New Hampshire, Edmund C. Tarbell (1862 -1938) was a quintessential Yankee; cultured and unpretentious. Tarbell's art reflected his character - he remained committed to time-honored techniques and craftsmanship while creating his own innovations in depicting light and modern life on canvas. (left: Mercie Cutting Flowers, 1912, The Currier Gallery of Art)

On October 13, 2001, the Currier Gallery of Art will open the most important exhibition of paintings by Tarbell since his death in 1938. The Currier has organized Impressionism Transformed: The Paintings of Edmund C. Tarbell and published the accompanying exhibition catalogue, a fully illustrated, 172-page book with essays by Linda J. Docherty, Associate Professor of Art History at Bowdoin College; Erica E. Hirshler, John Moors Cabot Curator of Paintings, Art of the Americas, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; and Currier Director Susan Strickler. The catalogue is distributed through University Press of New England.

The exhibition includes 42 paintings -- many recently rediscovered and on view for the first time in half a century -- which range from Tarbell's little-known early works, the outdoor scenes which established his reputation, the domestic interiors for which he is best known today, and a selection of portraits, equestrian subjects and still lifes. (right: Girls Reading, 1907, Shein Collection)

The catalogue of the exhibition Impressionism Transformed incorporates an especially intimate focus on Tarbell's personal life and family. "The timing of this project was fortunate. The families of both Edmund and his wife, Emeline Souther Tarbell, graciously offered a rich resource of letters, diaries and photographs. These, along with the personal recollections of their grandchildren, have added to the collective understanding of the artist and his work," says Strickler. "Edmund Tarbell deserves a place of honor, both nationally and in New England, a region with a deep, rich cultural heritage."

The exhibition, after opening at the Currier on October 13, will travel to the Delaware Art Museum, Wilmington (February 15 - April 28, 2002) and the Terra Museum of American Art in Chicago (May 11 - July 21, 2002).


A life that is art

Edmund Tarbell was born in West Groton, Massachusetts, and raised in Boston by his paternal grandparents. After grammar school, he became an apprentice at a lithographic company before entering the Museum School (The School of Drawing and Painting of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston). Four years later, he traveled to Europe to continue his training at the Académie Julian in Paris. He returned to Boston to co-direct the Museum School from 1890 to 1912 with his friend Frank W. Benson. Tarbell soon gained a national reputation as both an influential teacher and an accomplished painter. From 1918 to 1925, he served as principal of the Corcoran School of Art in Washington, D.C., after which he retired to his summer home in New Castle, New Hampshire, where he painted until his death in 1938. (left: Summer Breeze, 1904, Gift of Elizabeth Carperter Floyd, The Currier Gallery of Art, NH)

Tarbell was a founding member of "The Ten American Painters," (The Ten) a group of leading impressionists from Boston and New York, including Childe Hassam, William Merritt Chase and Frank W. Benson. With these colleagues, Tarbell exhibited in prestigious expositions and exhibitions sponsored by major museums across the country, including: the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington; the Art Institute of Chicago; and the Saint Louis Art Museum. The end of his career was eclipsed by the rise of abstract art and social realism, but recent studies reassessing American Impressionism (see our recently published essays during 2001 treating this subject via the Chronological Index), the Colonial Revival and the Arts and Crafts Movement have led to Tarbell's reemergence as an important figure in turn-of-the-century art.


Public Programs

Visitors to the exhibition Impressionism Transformed are invited to view a short video exploring Tarbell's art and life. The video was produced by Atlantic Media of Portsmouth, in conjunction with the Currier. A half-hour version of the video will be available for purchase in the Museum Shop. Those interested in learning more about Tarbell and the Boston School of painting may also take in a slide presentation, offered by staff and volunteers, at 2:00 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays in the Currier auditorium. (left: In the Orcahrd, 1891, Terra Foundation for the Arts, Daniel J. Terra Foundation, 1999.141)

A series of talks by the authors of the exhibition catalogue will provide additional insights into Tarbell's work. On Friday, November 2, Linda J. Docherty speaks on "Modernizing Tradition: The Early Career of Edmund C. Tarbell." On Friday, November 9, Erica E. Hirshler presents a talk on "Edmund C. Tarbell and the Boston School," and on Friday, November 16, Currier Director Susan Strickler offers "A Life that is Art: Edmund C. Tarbell in New Castle, New Hampshire."

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rev. 9/19/06

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