Charles Warren Eaton
(1857 - 1937)
Charles Warren Eaton was active/lived in New York, New Jersey / Netherlands. Charles Eaton is known for tonalist landscape painting-trees.
Charles Warren Eaton
Biography from the Archives of askART
The following is submitted by Dr. John J. Siudmak:
Biography from the Archives of askART
Eaton resided in Bloomfield, New Jersey for fifty years at 63 Monroe
Place and maintained a studio at this residence. His New York studio
was located at 9 West 17th Street. He never married and retired at the
age of 70, and did not paint at all during the last 10 years of his
life. He died in 1937 at Mountainside Hospital, Montclair, New Jersey
(the adjoining town).
His physician, whom I knew personally,
was Dr. Rudy Fager. He told me an interesting story about when he opened his
practice in Montclair in 1933. Soon after Mr. Eaton chose him as his
physician. At his introduction with Dr. Fager he shyly told him that
his waiting room was too bare and had nothing hanging on the four
walls. He said that he is a painter and would like to bring him four of
this paintings to be hung on each wall and in a few months he would
return to find out which one his liked best as a gift. On his return
Dr. Fager told him that he liked all of them. Mr. Eaton graciously
gifted him all four of the paintings.
Mr. Eaton was buried in
Bloomfield Cemetery located on Belleville Avenue. A very simple small
granite monument marks his resting place (which I visited).
purchased in 1965 my first Eaton, The Belgian Farm, 1902,
for $200.00. During my perusal in the Montclair Art Museum
discovered an interesting letter addressed to the museum dated February
2, 1964 from Priscilla D. Polkinghorn. Her grandfather, Samuel
and Mr. Eaton were life-long friends and when Mr. Eaton died, he left
his entire estate to Priscilla, which included the home and
several-hundred of his paintings. She was in the process of
memorial exhibition at the museum. She also stated in this letter
she had a considerable number of his paintings for sale. Of
immediately contacted her and purchased two of them still unframed as
Eaton had left them ($ 75.00 --- $ 150.00 respectively !!)
the recent increasing rediscovery of Eaton's works, if I had known it at
that time, my purchases would have been much more numerous.
Born in Albany, New York, Charles Eaton became a Tonalist landscape
painter much influenced by George Inness. His intimate, moody
landscapes were known for subdued golden-brown hues and muted tonal
harmonies, and the subject was often the landscape in late autumn,
evening time, or winter. These paintings were groundbreaking
because they were relatively small in scale and intimate countryside
views, which was a departure from the generally popular panoramic,
romanticized views of Hudson River School painters.
Biography from Spanierman Gallery (retired)
In 1879, he
enrolled at the National Academy of Design in New York City and then
studied figure painting at the Art Students League with J. Carroll
Beckwith. He became a close associate with Leonard Ochtman and
Ben Foster, both Tonalist painters, and traveled with them to France
and England where each formed their own style in reaction to the
pervasive Barbizon style of rural landscape and genre painting. They
also visited Holland where Eaton painted many canal scenes.
continued to travel rather extensively, visiting Glacier National Park
in Montana in 1921 and returned to Italy in 1910 to 1912 and in 1923.
reclusive bachelor, Eaton maintained a studio in New York City,
although he lived in Bloomfield, New Jersey. He painted many snow
scenes in white and grey purple tones, but by 1900 was focusing more on
the theme of the Berkshire pine forests of New York State. His
work got less and less attention as modernism became pervasive, and he
became increasingly alone and introspective.
He won many prizes
including ones at the Salmagundi Club, the Philadelphia Art Club and
the 1904 St. Louis Exposition. He was a founding member of the Lotus
and Salmagundi Clubs.
In October 2004, a retrospective of
Eaton's paintings, "Intimate Landscapes: Charles Warren Eaton and the
Tonalist Movement in American art, 1880-1920", was held at the de Menil
Gallery at Groton School.
Michael Zellman, 300 Years of American Art
Peter Falk, Who Was Who in American Art
Charles Warren Eaton will be remembered in American art history as one of the chief members of the Tonalist movement, along with Henry Ward Ranger, Elliott Daingerfield, and others who benefited from the lessons of French Barbizon painting and, more immediately, from the example of the poetic style of George Inness. Guided by his desire to convey the underlying moods of nature, he eschewed grandiose vistas in favor of quieter, more intimate views, which he depicted at dawn or dusk. His landscapes still speak to us in a quiet but consistent way of the beauty of nature and of those unexpected and felicitous moments when the man-made and natural worlds merge into unified and harmonious images.
Biography from Art Cellar Exchange
Eaton was born in 1857 in Albany, New York, into modest circumstances. According to legend, he became interested in art when a childhood friend in Albany showed him his own tentative efforts. In 1879 Eaton moved to New York, where he supported himself as a dry-goods clerk and enrolled at both the Art Students League and the National Academy of Design. His constant search for a suitable studio led him to move frequently during his first ten years in the city. There is evidence he may have roomed with his Albany friend Leonard Ochtman prior to 1880, and he later shared a studio with painter Ben Foster.(1) Ochtman became one of Eaton's closest confidants and their warm correspondence began just after Eaton moved to New York. (2) In 1882, Eaton met George Inness in 1882 when the former was enrolled at the Art Students League. Writing to Ochtman, Eaton described a lecture Inness gave one day to his composition class. Inness was accompanied by British artist Hubert Herkomer (1849-1914), who singled out Eaton's work for showing promise.
Eaton's first few years in New York were difficult. He was beset with health and financial problems and had to maintain his dry goods job in order to pursue nighttime and weekend studies. Nonetheless, Eaton was an adept student, and his first landscape paintings won quick approval from juries, critics, and collectors. By 1882 he was exhibiting at the National Academy of Design, where his first submissions were Days Last Light is Dying Out and An Autumn Day. (3) He scored an enviable success when no less an arbiter of taste than Oscar Wilde bought one of the works, a scene from Staten Island. (4)
Soon after moving to New York Eaton became influenced by the art of the French Barbizon School, which was frequently exhibited in galleries in the city, and he developed an interest in the manipulation of light, which he captured in scenes portraying such subjects as moonrises in winter and the fading light on autumn meadows.
In 1886, Eaton was finally able to leave his clerkship. That year he traveled abroad with Ben Foster and Ochtman. Eaton visited France, Belgium, Holland, and London. That June, he was painting in Brolles, near Barbizon, where he made a pilgrimage to the home of Jean Francois Millet. He also visited the nearby town of Grez-sur-Loing, where an informal artists' colony had been established.
In 1888 Eaton moved to Bloomfield, New Jersey, which is adjacent to Montclair, where a robust and growing art community under the shadow of George Inness had surfaced. In the town and its surroundings, Eaton found plentiful subjects in the woods, pastures, and ponds that surrounded the village.
In 1889, Eaton rented a studio adjacent to Inness's at the Holbein Studios at 139 West 55th Street in New York. A chance visit by Inness to Eaton's studio on a day when the younger artist was not in residence piqued Inness's interest in the work of his neighbor, and he returned the following day to buy one of the paintings. At the suggestion of George Inness, Jr., Eaton for a time shared his studio on Bay Street in Montclair.
Although primarily a painter in oils, Eaton enthusiastically investigated several other media during the first two decades of his career. He was an avid watercolorist, created monotypes, and experimented with pastels. In 1890 he participated in the fourth and final exhibition of the Society of Painters in Pastel.
About 1900, Eaton discovered the white pine forests of Connecticut, near his summer haunt of Thompson. For the ten years that followed, he made the white pine tree motif his primary subject; depicting it in oil paintings, watercolors, monotypes, and pastels. He became so famous for it that he was often called "The Pine Tree Painter." These works soon secured his reputation as one of the country's leading landscape painters and nearly all of the paintings that entered public collections during his lifetime represented a variation on the pine tree theme.
In the early twentieth century, Eaton began to spend more of his annual trips abroad in Belgium and Holland. In his paintings rendered on these sojourns, he focused on the picturesque region of Bruges, Belgium, and its nearby countryside, and neighboring villages Sluis, in Holland, and Knokke, in Belgium. After 1910 Eaton began extended stays in Italy, returning to Venice and staying for the first time at Lake Como. In his Italian works, Eaton adopted a modified Impressionist palette, capturing the intense blues of the lake, the reds and corals of the tile roofs, and the greens of the olive and cypress trees under the bright summer sun.
As his paintings of Italy reveal, Eaton seems to have abandoned tonal painting in favor of realism after about 1910. He continued to paint in New Jersey and Connecticut during the ensuing years, but eventually he moved his summer retreat from Thompson to Colebrook, Connecticut, at the opposite end of the state. His late landscapes focused on the nearby countryside around Colebrook. While incorporating the pine tree theme, these works are painted in higher keys than those rendered before 1910, and they depend to a greater degree on topographic specificity and traditional use of perspective.
In 1921 Eaton was hired to paint Glacier Lake, in Glacier National Park by the Great Northern Railroad Company as part of their "See America First" campaign.(5) The approximately twenty-one paintings that resulted were among the artist's last works. Eaton tended to approach the Rocky Mountain scenery from an oblique vantage point rather than confronting the scenery directly. He captured small episodes, showing mountaintops nearly obscured by dramatically attenuated screens of fir trees. In the late 1920s, Eaton again visited Italy, where he produced a small number of works.
While never among the most acclaimed artists of his generation, Eaton achieved a notable degree of success in the course of his career. The title page of his account book includes, in the artist's hand, a list of his awards: an honorable mention at the Exposition Universelle, Paris, 1900; silver medal, Pan-American Exposition, Buffalo, 1901; Proctor Prize, Salmagundi Club, 1901; Inness Prize, Salmagundi Club, 1902; silver medal, Charleston Exposition, 1902; gold medal, Philadelphia Art Club, 1903; Osborne Calendar Prize, 1903; Shaw Prize, Salmagundi Club, 1904; silver medal, St. Louis Exposition, 1904; Inness Gold. Medal, National Academy of Design, 1904; third class gold medal, Paris Salon, 1906; silver medal, Buenos Aires, 1910.
His works may be found in many private and public collections, including the Arnot Art Museum, Elmira, New York; Ball State University Museum of Art, Muncie, Indiana; the Brooklyn Museum of Art, New York; the Cheekwood Museum of Art, Nashville, Tennessee; the Columbus Museum of Art, Ohio; the Georgia Museum of Art, Athens; the Indiana State Museum, Indianapolis; The Montclair Art Museum, New Jersey; Muskegon Museum of Art, Michigan; the Paine Art Center, Oshkosh, Wisconsin; the San Diego Museum of Art; the Smithsonian American Art Museum; the University of Michigan Museum of Art, Ann Arbor; the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts, Hagerstown, Maryland; Watson gallery, and Wheaton College, Norton, Massachusetts.
1 For a biography of Ochtman, see Larkin, Leonard Ochtman (1854-1934), pp. 11-33.
2 Letters from Charles Warren Eaton to Leonard Ochtman, from October 7, 1880 to July 26, 1890, Bruce Museum, Greenwich, Connecticut, gift of Mrs. Eleanor Revill (hereafter, Eaton Letters, Bruce Museum).
3 He exhibited annually at the Academy from 1882 to 1933.
4 Lolita Flockhart, Charles Warren Eaton, New Jersey Clubwoman 9 (February 1935), p. 3.
5 See The Call of the Mountains: The Artists of Glacier National Park, exh. cat. (Kalispell, Mont.: Hockaday Museum of Art).
CHARLES W. EATON | Tall Pines and Sweeping Meadows
** If you discover credit omissions or have additional information to add, please let us know at
The American landscape artist, Charles Warren Eaton, remains one of the
best kept secrets of the art market. Although his works are
included in many public collections across the United States including
the National Gallery of Art, the National Museum of American Art, the
Brooklyn Museum, Butler Institute of American Art, and the Cincinnati
Art Museum, he is virtually an unknown except to the savviest of
The reason for this is in part due to the fact that he did not work for
the last ten years of his life, or that he began painting much later in
his life than most artists. Perhaps, the larger picture is that
throughout the last century his works have remained tucked away in the
exclusive private collections of the descendants of the original Eaton
admirers and have only begun to re-enter the art market over the last
decade or so.
The owner of the paintings presented on this website is the daughter of
one such pair of admirers. Her parents originally purchased their
works back in the 1920s. Her father was a passionate collector of
fine art and purchased many fine American paintings. He enjoyed
meeting the artists themselves and often went to their studios to
engage in conversation with the artists, to view works in process, and
often to purchase finished pieces from the studio floor long before
they entered a gallery. He was introduced to Charles Warren Eaton
sometime before Eaton's death in 1937 and visited him in his
studio. Her father fell in love with Eaton's works but did not
purchase any paintings due to his financial circumstances.
Some years later, the owner's father on one his frequents trips to the
Metropolitan Museum in New York City, he looked through the window of
the Kennedy Gallery and observed four small paintings that immediately
caught his eye. He stopped at the Kennedy Gallery and inquired
about the works. Recalling his meeting with Eaton and admiration
for his work, he did not hesitate to purchase all four paintings.
In no time at all, he sauntered down the streets with his new pride and
joy: four original Charles Warren Eaton paintings. His daughter
inherited these four paintings and has proudly hung them on the walls
of her home over the last 40 years.
"Chas Eaton" was how this native New Yorker signed his
paintings. He was born in 1857 and died in 1937. It was in
his early 20's that Charles began to feel so drawn to art that he quit
his job and immediately enrolled himself in Art School. He began
his studies with the Art Student League followed by the National
Academy of Design. He traveled across Europe visiting the museums and
countrysides that inspired the greatest artists of the last
millennium. Immediately upon his return he became acquainted with
another famous American landscape painter, George Inness. Inness
and Eaton would quickly become friends. Inness often invited
Eaton to paint in his studio, subsequently he was the greatest
influence in Eaton's artistic life and formation.
After Inness' death, the bond continued between Eaton and George Inness
Jr., another great painter like his father. Eaton, like the
Inness father and son, belonged to a school of artists who turned to
the lush and diverse landscapes of America for their inspiration.
They were instrumental in shaping a very important facet of America's
identity; one that created a national and international tourist
industry. They assisted in legitimizing Americans as true
artists. They mastered light, texture, composition, and portrayed
a unique subject matter: America's back forests and trails, national
parks, and unseen wonders.
Chas Eaton's most revered works are paintings of pine forests, meadows,
and hillside villages. He was one of a handful of artists
specially commissioned to paint scenes of Glacier National Park in
Montana. His works, as well as those of the other American
landscape artists, were pivotal in raising awareness for the
preservation and conservation of America's treasured National Parks.
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