Edmund Charles Tarbell (American, 1862-1934)
In the Station Waiting Room, Boston, ca. 1915
Oil on canvas 24 3/8 in. x 32 in. (61.91 cm x 81.28 cm)
Crocker Art Museum, gift of Dr. Joseph R. Fazzano1956.7
Edmund Charles Tarbell is best known for depicting Boston society women engaged in leisure activities or moments of contemplation. Born in West Groton, Massachusetts, he attended evening drawing classes at the Massachusetts Normal Art School and, at the age of fifteen, apprenticed as an engraver at the Forbes Lithography firm in Boston. In 1879, he enrolled at the school of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and later traveled to Paris, enrolling at the Académie Julian. There, he encountered Impressionism firsthand and honed his skills at rendering the figure.
Tarbell returned to Massachusetts by 1886 and began his career as a portrait painter. In 1889, he began twenty-four years of teaching at the Boston Museum School. His influence among Boston painters was so great that New York critic Sadakichi Hartmann coined the term “Tarbellite” to describe the work of Frank W. Benson, Philip Hale, Joseph R. DeCamp and others, who worked in a style similar to Tarbell’s. The following year, Tarbell became a founding member of The Ten, a group composed of ten leading American Impressionists.
In the early 20th century, Tarbell worked in a quiet, lowkeyed style that many critics compared to 17th-century Dutch painting, especially to the art of Jan Vermeer. He later used brighter, more Impressionist colors, but retained the naturalism and weight of his figures without dissolving their solidity in brushwork. In this painting, the artist departed from his usual domestic subject matter to portray an urban scene similar to those championed by Robert Henri. Unlike Henri’s dark, gritty scenes and coarse characters, however, Tarbell betrays his preference for more elegant sitters, evidenced here in the beautifully attired travelers in the central foreground.