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 Arthur Clifton Goodwin  (1864 - 1929)

About: Arthur Clifton Goodwin


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Lived/Active: Massachusetts/New York/New Hampshire      Known for: plein air urban scene, marine and landscape painting

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BIOGRAPHY for Arthur Goodwin
1864 (Portsmouth, New Hampshire)
1929 (Boston, Massachusetts)

Massachusetts/New York/New Hampshire

Self portrait - Self-portrait

Often Known For
plein air urban scene, marine and landscape painting

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Impressionists Pre 1940
San Francisco Panama-Pacific Exhibition 1915
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
A painter especially known for street and waterfront scenes of Boston, Arthur Clifton Goodwin did work that captured the subtle nuances of light and color, creating a harmony between and the natural environment.  His style reflected American Impressionism, although his subject matter was not typically rural. He preferred painting Boston and particularly scenes where the city met the natural landscape, such as piers, bridges, or the Boston statehouse.  His "T" wharf series, representing the pier where boats of largely Portuguese and Italian origin would dock, were quite well known.

Goodwin was born in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and was raised in Chelsea Massachusetts. He did not begin painting until the age of thirty and became a self-taught Impressionist and also a follower of the Ashcan School led by Robert Henri. After painting in Boston in both oil and pastel for a twenty-year period, Goodwin gained the recognition of famous art figures including John Singer Sargent, Mrs. Jack Gardner, and John T. Spaulding.  Childe Hassam was quoted as describing Goodwin as "the greatest painter in Boston."

However, Goodwin's erratic lifestyle frequently cost him patrons as did the inconsistency of his pricing of his paintings.

In 1921, he left Boston for New York City and had a studio on Washington Square where he "developed a reputation as one of the few American Impressionists to prefer urban subjects" (Spanierman) including bridges, parks and avenues. He and his wife then lived in Chatham, New York where he painted many landscapes. In 1929, he returned to Boston and resumed his Bohemian lifestyle. That same year he died suddenly, found in his home by friends with his trunk fully packed and lying beside a steamship ticket to France.

Michael David Zellman, 300 Years of American Art
Spanierman Galleries LLC, Art for the New Collector II

Biography from Pierce Galleries, Inc.:
A.C. Goodwin is known primarily for his luscious dock views, landscapes and cityscapes in and around Boston, Gloucester and New York City. He spent most of his professional life in Boston (before 1920 and from 1928-1929, and again from 1925-until his death) and New York City (1920-1927). He painted in oil and in pastel.

Known as a “Boston painter,” he was a member of no “school” and basically was self-taught. He was a member of the Guild of Boston Artists and the Boston Society of Water Color Painters. He exhibited at the Guild of Boston Artists; the PAFA; Doll & Richards Gallery, Boston; Boston Art Club; Corcoran Gallery, Washington, DC; Milch Galleries, NYC and elsewhere.

His work is represented at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Union Club, Boston; St. Botolph Club, Boston; Addison Gallery of Art, Andover, MA; Colby College, ME and elsewhere. He painted en plein air and is best known for the Boston waterfront, street and park scenes.

In 1920, Goodwin painted Washington Square in Manhattan from his studio there. After his marriage failed, the despondent artist returned to Boston and led the life of a Bohemian who drank excessively. Louis Kronberg often roomed with Goodwin, taking care of him and making sure he didn’t drink too much alcohol. Although Goodwin never studied in Paris, he vowed one day he would go to see the French Impressionists’ work firsthand. Tragically, after an excessive drinking binge, Goodwin was found dead in his Boston studio with tickets for Paris in his pocket.

In 1974, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, honored the Impressionist with a solo show, and thereafter his works have been sought after and collected by the finest institutions and individual collectors throughout the world.

Biography from Spanierman Gallery (retired):
Recognized for his sensitive, plein-air depictions of urban Boston, Arthur Clifton Goodwin was born in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, in 1864. Around 1872, following his father's death, he moved with his mother to Chelsea, Massachusetts. During the 1880s and 1890s he earned his living in a variety of ways, working at one point as a salesman for a wholesale paper firm. A colorful individual, he was active as a dancer and was frequently referred to as the local "dandy." He did not decide to pursue an artistic career until 1900, when, encouraged by the painter Louis Kronberg (1872-1965), he began to paint and draw on his own, working out of Kronberg's Boston studio. It was not long before he had acquired a steady clientele, drawn to his vigorous renderings of the city's parks, docks, and plazas.

In 1921, Arthur Goodwin moved to New York City. As well as maintaining a studio in Washington Square, he also resided on a farm in Chatham, New York. During these years he produced a number of rural scenes. However, the streets of both Boston and New York remained his preferred subject matter. Although his palette was slightly darkened by the influence of the Ashcan School, an optimistic attitude towards urban life continued to pervade his work. He remained in New York until early 1929, when he returned to Boston. A few months later, just prior to departing on his first trip to Europe, he died due to an over-consumption of alcohol.

Working in both oil and pastel, Arthur Goodwin developed a highly individual approach to the Impressionist aesthetic, one that combined the spontaneous application of paint with a personal response to the nuances of light and color and the subject matter itself. Despite his notoriety among local collectors, he adhered to his earlier bohemian lifestyle and did not participate in the local cultural milieu. As one writer has pointed out, it was probably the "absence of European training, European travel, and over-intellectualization of Goodwin's life" that allowed his art to evolve in such a personal manner.1

A member of the Guild of Boston Artists, Arthur Goodwin exhibited locally at the St. Botolph and Union Clubs, Doll and Richards, Vose Galleries, and at the Copley Gallery. His work was also shown at the National Academy of Design and Milch Galleries in New York, the Brooklyn Museum, and at the Art Institute of Chicago. He is represented in numerous public and private collections throughout the northeast, including the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the Addison Gallery of American Art, Phillips Academy, Andover, Massachusetts; and the Fogg Museum, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts.


©The essay herein is the property of Spanierman Gallery LLC and is copyrighted by Spanierman Gallery LLC, and may not be reproduced in whole or in part without written permission from Spanierman Gallery LLC nor shown or communicated to anyone without due credit being given to Spanierman Gallery LLC.


1 Sandra Emerson, Lucretia H. Giese and Laura C. Luckey, A.C. Goodwin, 1864-1929 (Boston: Museum of Fine Arts, 1974), 4.

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