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Edmund Charles Tarbell was born by the Squannacook River in Groton, Massachusetts, in April 1862. He became one of the most celebrated American Impressionists and was part of the avant-garde group The Ten.
Only a year after his birth, his father, Edmund Whitney, died while serving for the troops in the Civil War of typhoid fever. After his widowed mother, Mary Sophia Tarbell, married again, and the young soon-to-be painter went with his sister to live with their grandparents. He began his formal art education under the British painter and engraver George Henry Bartlett at the Massachusetts Art School.
In 1877, Tarbell became an apprentice in the art of lithographic print at the Forbes Lithographic Company, where he stayed for about three years. By 1879, Tarbell had the German painter Emil Otto Grundmann as his mentor while studying at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts’ School. There he met fellow artists that shared similar views on art as he did, like Frank Weston Benson and Robert Reid.
Tarbell was invested in his Academic journey and moved to Paris to study in the renowned Académie Julian in 1883. Not only did the American painter learn under professors like Jules Joseph Lefebvre and Gustave Boulanger, but he also copied many masterpieces found at the Louvre Museum. By 1884, he was adventuring in the Grand Tour, learning about European culture in locations like Italy, Germany, Belgium, and the region of Brittany.
During his years abroad, Tarbell acquired refined Academic painting skills, but also came in contact with Modern artworks of the Impressionists. He gradually began to free himself from the rigid Academic structures and experiment with the Impressionistic style, resulting in his unique artwork. By 1886, Tarbell returned to the US, where he continued his career as an artist and private art teacher, mostly working with portrait painting and illustration.
Tarbell also lectured at the Museum School in Boston. He eventually took the position of Grundmann in 1889, one of his first Academic teachers. He had a significant influence upon the Boston art scene; his pupils and admirers were known as the Tarbelltes.
The American artist enjoyed portraying the people closest to him, especially his family. Tarbell’s body of work shows his life through his art, and he often painted outdoor scenes with his family. He had four children with his wife Emeline Souther, who was an art student when they met. The couple married in 1888 and eventually had grandchildren, who were also portrayed in his work.
In 1914, Tarbell founded the Guild of Boston Artists along with Frank W. Benson, after they both resigned from the Museum School. Tarbell was the first president of the Guild, and they aimed to encourage art production in their city.