Edmund Charles Tarbell (April 26, 1862 – August 1, 1938) was an American Impressionist painter. He was a member of the Ten American Painters.
Tarbell was born at West Groton, Massachusetts, to a family that immigrated from England in 1647. His father, Edmund Whitney Tarbell, died in 1863 after contracting typhoid fever while serving in the American Civil War. His mother, Mary Sophia Fernald, thereupon remarried to David Frank Hartford and moved with him to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, leaving young "Ned" and his sister, Nellie Sophia, to be raised by their paternal grandparents in Groton.
As a youth, Tarbell took evening art lessons from George H. Bartlett at the Massachusetts Normal Art School. Between 1877 and 1880, he apprenticed at the Forbes Lithographic Company in Boston. In 1879, he entered the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, studying under Otto Grundmann. Matriculating in the same class were two other future members of the Ten American Painters, Robert Reid and Frank Weston Benson.
Because of his talent, Tarbell was encouraged to continue his education in Paris, France, then center of the art world. Consequently, in 1883 he entered the Academie Julian to study under Gustave Boulanger and Jules-Joseph Lefebvre. Paris exposed him to an academic training, which invariably included copying Old Master paintings at the Louvre Museum, but also to the Impressionism movement then sweeping the city's galleries. That duality would imprint his work. In 1884, Tarbell's education included a Grand Tour to Italy, and then again the following year to Italy, Belgium, Germany and Brittany.
Tarbell returned to Boston in 1886, earning a living as an illustrator, private art instructor and portrait painter. He married Emeline Souther, member of a prominent Dorchester, Massachusetts family, in 1888. In 1889, Tarbell assumed the position of his former mentor, Otto Grundmann, at the Museum School, where he was a popular teacher. He gave his pupils a solid academic art training -- before they learned to paint, they had to render from plaster casts of classical statues. So pervasive was his influence on Boston painting that his followers were dubbed "The Tarbellites." In 1919, Tarbell became principal of the art school at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, DC.
An 1891 painting entitled "In the Orchard" established his reputation as an artist. Many still consider the work his masterpiece. It depicts his wife with her siblings at plein air leisure. Tarbell became famous for impressionistic, richly-hued images of figures in landscapes. His later work shows the influence of Johannes Vermeer. Here, he typically portrays figures in genteel Colonial Revival interiors, executed with restrained brushwork and color.
Throughout his career, Tarbell's wife and their four children (Josephine, Mercie, Mary and Edmund A.) would be his most convenient models. The resulting paintings chronicle their lives.
He limned portraits of many notables of his day, including industrialist Henry Clay Frick, Yale University President Timothy Dwight, and U.S. Presidents Woodrow Wilson, Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover.
While teaching at the Museum School in Boston, Tarbell lived first in Dorchester, Massachusetts, and later at the former Hotel Somerset in Boston, not far from his atelier in the Fenway Studios on Ipswich Street.
Tarbell's paintings hang in numerous American art collections and museums, including the White House.