Archives of American Art

A Finding Aid to the Edmund C. Tarbell papers, circa 1855-circa 2000, bulk 1885-1938, in the Archives of American Art

Collection ID:
Tarbell, Edmund Charles, 1862-1938
circa 1855-circa 2000
bulk 1885-1938
Collection is in English.
Physical Description:
7 Linear feet
The papers of Boston painter Edmund Charles Tarbell measure 7 linear feet and date from circa 1855-circa 2000, bulk 1885-1938. The collection includes biographical material, correspondence, writings, diaries, personal business records, printed material, photographs, albums, glass plate negatives, and a scrapbook.

Scope and Contents
Scope and Contents
The papers of Boston painter Edmund Charles Tarbell measure 7 linear feet and date from circa 1855-circa 2000, bulk 1885-1938. The collection includes biographical material, correspondence, writings, diaries, personal business records, printed material, photographs, albums, glass plate negatives, and a scrapbook.
Biographical material includes a detailed timeline, honorary degree, award certificates, business cards, lists of awards and paintings, sketches, handbooks for organizations, and other documents.
There are three subseries of correspondence: Edmund Charles Tarbell's correspondence, his wife Emeline Tarbell's correspondence, and his daughter Josephine Tarbell Ferrell's correspondence. The first subseries includes Edmund Tarbell's correspondence with artists, museums and arts organizations. Notable correspondents include Frank W. Benson, William Merritt Chase, Henry Clay Frick, Philip Leslie Hale, August F. Jaccaci, Lilla Cabot Perry, and many others. The letters to his brother-in-law Augustus "Gus" Nickerson and sister Nellie Sophia are also significant for their information about his time studying abroad. The bulk of Emeline Tarbell's correspondence consists of letters from her husband regarding his time as a student in Paris. There are letters from her mother and siblings as well. Josephine Tarbell Ferrell's correspondence with people concerns her efforts to preserve the Tarbell house in New Hampshire as a memorial to her father.
Writings include a small amount of material by Edmund C. Tarbell, such as annotated appointment calendars, a notebook, assorted lists and notes, but most of the material in the series consists of other people's writings about the artist. Writing by others include drafts of a biography about Tarbell by his daughter Josephine Tarbell Ferrell and a typescript draft of "About the Artist Edmund C. Tarbell: Recollections of a Daughter" by Mercie Tarbell Clay. There is also a cookbook that was probably Emeline Souther's, before her marriage to Tarbell.
There are four diaries: two diaries by Emeline Tarbell, one diary by Josephine Tarbell Ferrell and another by Mercie Tarbell Clay.
Personal business records consist of account books, bills, receipts, checkbooks, estate papers, a ledger, and a deed. Some of the material belonged to Emeline Tarbell.
Printed material includes exhibition catalogs, announcements, event invitations, magazines, books, and newspaper clippings, mostly about Edmund Charles Tarbell.
There is one scrapbook of clippings of artwork and articles on Tarbell.
Photographic material consists of albums, photographs, glass plate negatives, and nitrate negatives of Edmund Charles Tarbell, his studio, family, friends, exhibition installations, and artwork. There are extensive photographs of the Tarbell family and the house in New Castle, New Hampshire.

This collection is arranged as 8 series.
    Missing Title
  • Series 1: Biographical Material, 1862-circa 1980, bulk 1884-1938 (0.4 linear feet; Boxes 1, 8, 18, OV 9)
  • Series 2: Correspondence, 1877-circa 1993, bulk 1883-1930 (1.1 linear feet; Boxes 1-2)
  • Series 3: Writings, circa 1880-circa 2000 (0.2 linear feet; Box 2)
  • Series 4: Diaries, 1887-1938 (0.3 linear feet; Box 2)
  • Series 5: Personal Business Records, 1889-circa 1951 (0.3 linear feet; Boxes 2-3)
  • Series 6: Printed Material, 1877-1979 (1.7 linear feet; Boxes 3-4, 8, OV 10-15)
  • Series 7: Scrapbook, circa 1902-circa 1916 (0.2 linear feet; Box 8)
  • Series 8: Photographic Material, circa 1845-circa 1990 (2.7 linear feet; Boxes 4-8, 16-17, MGP 1, MGP 5)

Biographical / Historical
Biographical / Historical
Edmund Charles Tarbell (1862-1938) was a painter and educator based in Boston, Massachusetts and New Hampshire.
Edmund Charles Tarbell was born in West Groton, Massachusetts. His parents were Mary Sophia and Edmund Whitney Tarbell. His father died from typhoid fever during the Civil War. After his father's death and his mother's remarriage, Tarbell and his sister Nellie Sophia are raised by his paternal grandparents. Tarbell studied at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (the Museum School), where he studied under the painter Otto Grundmann, and the Académie Julian in Paris, France, where he studied under Gustave-Rodolphe Boulanger and Jules-Joseph Lefebvre. Tarbell was in Europe from 1884 to 1886. In addition to his time at the Académie in Paris, he studied the Old Master paintings and Impressionism. He also traveled to London, Brussels, Frankfurt, Venice, and Munich, among other places.
After returning from Europe, Tarbell settled in Dorchester, Massachusetts and worked as a painter and illustrator. Tarbell married Emeline Souther in 1888. They had four children together and his family members were often the models for his paintings. Tarbell bought a summer house in New Castle, New Hampshire in 1905, where he and his wife would eventually retire.
Tarbell taught at the Museum School in Boston from 1889-1913 and later became the head of the Corcoran School of Art from 1918 to 1926. Tarbell and his close friend Frank W. Benson were both members of the Ten American Painters, a group of American Impressionist painters who held exhibitions together. He was considered the leader of the Boston Impressionists and had tremendous influence on his students, who were referred to as "Tarbellites." Tarbell was also the president of The Guild of Boston Artists from 1914 to 1924.
Tarbell exhibited frequently and his paintings are often in the American Impressionist style. While his wife and children were often the subject of his paintings, he also made numerous portraits of men of prestige, such as noted industrialists and presidents. He won numerous awards and received an honorary doctorate for painting from Dartmouth College. Tarbell was a juror in several important international exhibitions and world fairs such as the Louisiana Purchase Exposition (1904) and the Panama–Pacific International Exposition (1915). Furthermore, Tarbell was a member of various arts organizations such as the Tavern Club, the Players Club, and the National Academy of Design.
Tarbell died in New Castle, New Hampshire in 1938.

Rihoko Ueno
Funding for the digitization of this collection was provided by The Walton Family Foundation and the Terra Foundation for American Art.
Existence and Location of Copies
The bulk of the collection was digitized in 2017 and is available on the Archives of American Art's website. Materials which have not been digitized include blank pages, blank versos of photographs, duplicates, and nitrate negatives. In some cases, exhibition catalogs and other publications have had their covers, title pages, and relevant pages scanned.
Material lent for microfilming is available on 35mm microfilm reel N68-103 at the Archives of American art offices and through interlibrary loan.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Mrs. John Schaffer (Mary Tarbell), daughter of Edmund Tarbell, lent material for microfilming in 1968. Tarbell's granddaughter, Mary Josephine Ferrell Cannon donated papers in 1989 and William P. Tarbell, Tarbell's great-grandson, donated several additions to the papers in 2017 and 2018.
Processing Information
Materials on reels N68-103 were loaned for microfilming, then returned to the lender. The rest of the papers that are stored at the archives received a preliminary level of arrangement after receipt and then were microfilmed onto reels 4701-4702.
A large addition to the papers was donated to the archives by William P. Tarbell and this material was merged with the rest of the collection. Nitrate negatives were discarded after digitization. The collection was fully processed and prepared for digitization by Rihoko Ueno in 2017 with funding provided by The Walton Family Foundation and the Terra Foundation for American Art. A small addition of 0.2 linear feet was donated to the archives in 2018 by William P. Tarbell and was merged with the existing collection at the end of the biographical material series.
Separated Materials
The Archives of American Art also holds material lent for microfilming (reel N68-103) including circa 75 unidentified and undated photographs, mostly of Tarbell's work and exhibitions, six exhibition catalogs in which his work appears, clippings, a sketch by Tarbell dated 1883, and a letter from Edward Redfield to "Mary." Lent materials were returned to the lender and are not described in the collection container inventory.

Using the Collection
Conditions Governing Access
Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C. Research Center. Contact Reference Services for more information.
Terms of Use
The Archives of American Art makes its archival collections available for non-commercial, educational and personal use unless restricted by copyright and/or donor restrictions, including but not limited to access and publication restrictions. AAA makes no representations concerning such rights and restrictions and it is the user's responsibility to determine whether rights or restrictions exist and to obtain any necessary permission to access, use, reproduce and publish the collections. Please refer to the Smithsonian's Terms of Use for additional information.
Preferred Citation
Edmund Charles Tarbell papers, circa 1855-circa 2000, bulk 1885-1938. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

Repository Contact
Archives of American Art
750 9th Street, NW
Victor Building, Suite 2200
Washington, D.C. 20001