Charles Herbert Woodbury
Charles H. Woodbury was born in Lynn, Massachusetts, where his earliest work was part of the oeuvre of the group later known as the Lynn Beach Painters. While an undergraduate at MIT he became a regular exhibitor at, and at 19 the youngest member of, the Boston Art Club . After graduation from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (with degree in Mechanical Engineering), in 1886 Woodbury had great success painting up the New England coast and in the towns and beaches of Nova Scotia and exhibiting the results. From January to June 1891 he was a pupil of the Académie Julian in Paris, after which he went to Holland, where he studied the techniques of the modern Dutch painters. Upon his return to New England he settled in Boston for his winter studio and spent his summers in the small fishing village of Ogunquit, Maine; there he founded one of the most successful of the summer art colony schools that even survived his death. He was one of the most sought-after teachers of his generation, having begun teaching on a regular basis while a freshman at M.I.T. Ironically, he had little formal training himself other than a few months of classes at the Academy Julian in Paris. Like Winslow Homer, another New England painter with an affinity for summers in Maine, he preferred "to work out his salvation with little help from others in his profession". Nevertheless, Woodbury maintained a close friendship with John Singer Sargent and a pleasant acquaintance with many of his contemporaries including J. Alden Weir and Childe Hassam. He was president of the Boston Water Color Club, and became associate of the National Academy of Design, New York in 1906 and a full member in 1907. His wife, Marcia Oakes Woodbury, born in 1865 at South Berwick, Maine, also became known as a painter. She died at the age of 49 in 1913.
He maintained a strong and consistent vision in his more than fifty years of professional life and became a master of compositions of the coast and sea. Woodbury’s many on-the-spot sketches and etchings produce a sense of motion through quick, sure-handed strokes. Seeing and understanding movement was fundamental to his art and teaching, and is reflected in his own maxim: “Paint in verbs, not nouns.” In the words of his son David, Woodbury "...painted what he saw, satisfied that what he saw was really there, all in proper relationship, checked and rechecked by endless reference to the real world".
In his later years he spent his winters in the Caribbean sailing from island to island painting watercolor studies of the beaches and town backed by dramatic mountains and clouds. Over a large part of his career he made some of the most expressive etchings of any American artist of his time, completing more than 500 plates and teaching many younger artists to express themselves in this medium. He died on January 21, 1940 in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts.
Woodbury engaged in over 100 solo exhibitions throughout his career, and was included in all of the major invitational and juried shows throughout the country. His work may be found currently in The Art Institute of Chicago, The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art among many others.
1864 Born in Lynn, MA on July 14.
1881 At 17, becomes the youngest honoree of the Boston Art Club.
1882 Begins studies at MIT.
1886 Graduates from MIT with a degree in mechanical engineering.
1887 Takes a studio in Boston and teaches drawing.
1888 First recorded visit to Ogunquit, ME.
1890 Marries former student, Marcia Oakes. They travel together to Europe.
1891 Studies at the Académie Julian under Boulanger and Lefebvre.
1896 Moves to Ogunquit with Marcia after the birth of their son, David.
1897 Takes Second Prize for Mid-Ocean painting at the Tennessee Centennial Exposition
1898 Founds his Ogunquit School.
1906 Elected an associate of the National Academy of Design.
1907 Elected full member of the National Academy of Design.
1913 Death of wife, Marcia Oakes.
1940 Dies in Jamaica Plain, MA on January 21.
Addison Gallery of American Art, MA
Art Institute of Chicago, IL
Bowdoin College Museum of Art, ME
Chrysler Museum of Art, VA
Cleveland Museum of Art, OH
Currier Gallery of Art, NH
El Paso Museum of Art, TX
Farnsworth Art Museum, ME
Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco, CA
Harvard University Art Museums, MA
Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, MA
Maier Museum of Art at Randolph College, VA
Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA
Portland Museum of Art, ME
Rhode Island School of Design – Museum of Art, RI
San Diego Museum of Art, CA
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC
1887 J. Eastman Chase Gallery, MA
1902 Art Institute of Chicago, IL
1910 Cincinnati Art Museum, OH
1910 City Art Museum of St. Louis, MO
1912 Buffalo Fine Arts Academy, NY
1913 Detroit Museum of Art, MI
1925 Frederick Keppel & Co., NY
1939 Winchester Public Library, MA
1940 Cleveland Museum of Art, OH
1945 Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA
1968 Adelson Galleries Inc., MA
1978 Vose Galleries of Boston, MA
Boston Art Club
Guild of Boston Artists
National Academy of Design
Ogunquit Art Association
Society of American Artists
Watercolor Club of Boston
Gammell, R.H. Ives. The Boston Painters 1900-1930. Orleans, MA: Parnassus Press, 1986.
Howlett, D. Roger. “The Lynn Beach Painters.” Boston: Copley Square Press, 1998.
Jarzombek, Nancy Allyn. Boston Art Club: 1855-1950. Boston, MA: Vose Galleries of Boston, 2000.
Loria, Joan, and Warren A. Seamans. “Earth, Sea and Sky – Charles H. Woodbury – Artist and Teacher, 1864-1940,” exhibition catalogue. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Museum, 1998.
Woodbury, Charles H. and Elizabeth W. Perkins. The Art of Seeing: Mental Training Through Drawing. New York: C. Scribner’s Sons, 1925.
Young, George M. and Charles H. Woodbury. Force through Delicacy: the Life and Art of Charles H. Woodbury. Portsmouth, NH: Peter E. Randall Publisher, 1998.
www.raisonne.org for a complete and detailed listing of all of Woodbury's etchings.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
- Boston Public Library. Prints by Woodbury