Signed (at lower left): Edmund H. Garrett 19th Century American Realist This is a tale about the vagaries of fame and fortune, the varying nature of ambition, and the strategies for realizing it. Among the fledgling artists in Boston in the late 1870s were two young men whose early careers ran in parallel tracks. Both began as wood engravers and moved from that profession to the related activity of book and magazine illustration. Both studied at the Boston Art Club and were members together of the Paint and Clay Club, an ad hoc group of about a dozen artists who banded together to paint and model with the guidance of hired teachers. In 1883 both men traveled together to Europe. In the late 1880s they were both returned to Paris, studying at the Académie Julien with the figure painters Gustave Boulanger and Jules Lefébvre and exhibiting in the Paris Salon. Both men nurtured an early interest in watercolor that endured throughout their working lives. Both men ultimately did well and years later both found patriotic sustenance and professional patronage in images of the colonial heritage of their native New England. Childe Hassam (1859–1935) went on to become one of America’s most famous painters, a leader of the American impressionist movement. Edmund Garrett’s success was considerably more modest. He built a career as an illustrator, artist, author, and lecturer, his fame more or less confined to the greater Boston locality. Edmund Garrett was born in Albany, New York, and raised in Boston, where he attended public schools. In 1879 he sent his first landscape oil painting to the Museum of the Fine Arts, Boston, where it made a favorable impression. In addition to the figure painters, Boulanger and Lefébvre, Garrett also studied in Paris with Jean-Paul Laurens, a French grand-manner history painter. All of this prepared him well for his American career as a literary illustrator. He applied his expertise with the human figure in his illustrations for American editions of the romantic and historical poems of Alfred Lord Tennyson, John Keats, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and Johann Friedrich Schiller, as well as for a version of the Arthurian legends, for Prosper Merimee’s Carmen, for Fitzgerald’s Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, and for a number of Alexandre Dumas’ swashbuckling tales. Garrett also illustrated works by American authors including the New England poets Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and John Greenleaf Whittier. In a different vein he contributed illustrations to a 1903 collector’s edition of Mark Twain’s works. On his own he compiled and illustrated two volumes of Elizabethan and Victorian poems and ballads and also wrote and illustrated two travelogue works on the pilgrim heritage of New England. Additionally, he designed bookplates and participated in the American painter-etcher movement. When Garrett painted for exhibition or for his own pleasure he returned to his first love, landscape. New England locales remained a favorite, supplemented by views of familiar European haunts, English cathedrals and country houses, Venetian scenes and Spanish towns. At some point he traveled to Bermuda and Puerto Rico, finding tropical themes for his brush and pencil. Though Garrett continued to work in oil, his primary commitment was to the watercolor medium. His most frequent exhibition venue remained the close-to-home Boston Art Club. His work, however, did travel further afield, to the Art Institute of Chicago, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and, in 1914, to the Carnegie International in Pittsburgh. Garrett was represented by two watercolors of English subjects at the Universal Exposition in St. Louis, Missouri in 1904. He sent the same oil painting, Heart of New England (location unknown), to the Panama-Pacific Exposition, San Francisco, in 1915 and to the Corcoran Gallery, Washington, D.C., in 1916. With all, he appears never to have shown his work in New York City.
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