Today on Museum Quick Bites we’re stepping out with Edmund C. Tarbell’s, On Bos’ n’s Hill (1901). Beneath a parasol and wide-brimmed hat, Emeline, Tarbell’s wife, strikes an elegant pose in her Sunday clothes. Join me for a brief stroll through this lovely, turn-of-the-century painting.
On Bos’n’s Hill (1901) by Edmund C. Tarbell, Cleveland Museum of Art, photo by cjverb (2021)
Put on your Sunday clothes there’s lots of world out there
Get out the brilliantine and dime cigars
We’re gonna find adventure in the evening air
Girls in white, in a perfumed night
Where the lights are bright as the stars
Excerpt from Put On Your Sunday Clothes, Hello, Dolly! (1964)
Lyrics by Jerry Herman
Beginning with Emeline, note how her snowy white dress, flowery hat, and navy-trimmed parasol pop against the bright blue sky and woodsy background. Her serene expression, flowy dress, and the gentle light filtering through the trees, give this painting a relaxed, carefree vibe. I’m half expecting Emeline to twirl her parasol. In contrast, the Tarbell’s faithful dog stands at Emeline’s side, his attention occupied by something in the woods. The backdrop of the colorful forest is located on Bos’ n’s Hill, a favorite Tarbell family vacation destination.
Close-Ups of On Bos’n’s Hill (1901) by Edmund C. Tarbell, Cleveland Museum of Art, photo by cjverb (2021)
Artist’s Brief Background: Edmund Charles Tarbell (1862-1938) was born in Groton, Massachusetts to Mary Sophia Fernald and Edmund Whitney Tarbell. A year after he was born, Tarbell’s father died from typhoid fever while fighting in the US Civil War. His mother subsequently remarried a machine manufacturer and Edmund and his older sister, Nellie, were raised by their paternal grandparents in Groton.
Left: Edmund C. Tarbell (1904) in The Book Lovers Magazine Vol III, Wikimedia Commons
Right: Still Life with Irises in a Blue Jar (no date) by Edmund C. Tarbell, Wikimedia Commons
In his early teens, Tarbell moved to Boston and enrolled in night classes at the Massachusetts Normal Arts School (modern-day Massachusetts College of Art & Design). He also worked as an apprentice with the Forbes Lithographic Company.
Fun Arty Fact #1: In 1870, the Massachusetts Drawing Act was passed and required all cities with a population of 10,000 or more to provide drawing classes as part of their public school curricula. Edmund C. Tarbell’s alma mater, the Massachusetts Normal Art School, opened in 1873 as a result of this mandate.
Across the Room (c1899) by Edmund C. Tarbell, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Wikimedia Commons
When Tarbell turned 17, he enrolled in the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, where he studied with noted painter, Otto Grundmann (1844-1890). After graduation, Tarbell moved to Paris to perfect his craft at the prestigious Académie Julian. During his stay in Paris, Tarbell was also introduced to a radical new form of painting called Impressionism. Enamored with the rebellious Impressionists, Tarbell was drawn to their unfussy style and penchant for plein air painting.
Left: Mother and Child in a Boat (1892) by Edmund C. Tarbell, Museum of Fine Arts Boston, WikiArt
Right: Girl with Sailboat (1899) by Edmund C. Tarbell, WikiArt
In 1886, Tarbell returned to Boston, where he worked as a magazine illustrator, taught private art classes, and painted portraits. Within two years, he married, Emeline Arnold Souther (1865-1947), and subsequently began teaching at his alma mater, the School of the Museum of Fine Arts. After the death of his mentor, Otto Grundmann, Tarbell took over his duties as chair of the painting department. A talented and popular art teacher, Tarbell accrued many devoted followers, nicknamed Tarbellites by art critic Sadakichi Hartmann (1867-1944).
Left: Edmund C. Tarbell in His Studio (c1907) Smithsonian Archives of American Art, Wikimedia Commons
Right: Preparing for the Matinee (1907) by E.C. Tarbell, Indianapolis Museum of Art, Wikimedia Commons
In the 1890s, Tarbell was an influential mover and shaker in the Boston art scene. He became a founding member of The Ten, director of the Corcoran School of Art, and was commissioned to paint the portraits of several notable figures, including Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924) and World War I Supreme Allied Commander, Ferdinand Foch (1851-1929), to name a few.
Woodrow Wilson (1920-1921) by Edmund C. Tarbell, National Portrait Gallery
In 1905, Emeline and Edmund purchased a vacation home along the shores of Piscataqua River, in New Castle, New Hampshire. Just a stone’s throw from Bos’n’s Hill. They renovated and built several additions, including an art studio that had a prime view of the river. In 1926, the Tarbells retired to their New Castle home where Edmund spent his final years painting. He died in 1938 at the age of 76.
Left: Mother and Mary (1922) by Edmund C. Tarbell, WikiArt
Right: Edmund C. Tarbell (c1919) photo taken at Corcoran Gallery of Art, Wikimedia Commons
Fun Arty Fact #2: The Ten, is a group of aptly named 10 American artists, mostly Impressionists, who quit their membership in the conservative Society of American Artists. Influenced by the French Impressionists rejection of the snooty Salon, The Ten sponsored their own exhibitions for the next 20 years.
The Ten (EC Tarbell, standing center; 1908), photo by Haeseler Photographic Studios, Wikimedia Commons
That wraps up our turn-of-the-century stroll up Bos’n’s Hill. I’ll be back next week with more Museum Quick Bites. Until then, be safe, be kind, and take care 🙂
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.
Cleveland Museum of Art: On Bos’ n’s Hill (1901) by Edmund C. Tarbell
Massachusetts College of Art & Design: History
Metropolitan Museum of Art: Across the Room (c1899) by Edmund C. Tarbell
National Gallery of Art: Edmund C. Tarbell
National Portrait Gallery: Woodrow Wilson (1920-1921) by Edmund C. Tarbell
Smithsonian American Art Museum: Edmund C. Tarbell
Smithsonian American Art Museum: Marshal Ferdinand Foch (1920) by Edmund C. Tarbell
TheArtStory: American Impressionism
YouTube: Hello Dolly! Soundtrack (1964) – Put on Your Sunday Clothes