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 Theodore Earl Butler  (1861 - 1936)

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Lived/Active: New York/Ohio / France      Known for: landscape, still life, figure, and genre painting

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Theodore Earl Butler
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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in 1861, Theodore Butler began his training as a student at the Art Students League in New York City in 1882 with William Merritt Chase.  He then went to Paris, where he exhibited in Salon de Paris in 1888, and won an honorable mention for the painting, La Veuve.  After this reward, Butler had some important one-man exhibitions at Vollard and Bernheim Jeune in Paris, and Durand Ruel in New York.

In July 1892, he married Suzanne Hoschede-Monet, Claude Monet's stepdaughter and favorite model as illustrated in his painting Femme a L'ombrelle.  When Suzanne died in 1899, Butler married yet another Monet stepdaughter, Marthe, in 1900.

Butler was able to experiment using different techniques from impressionism to post-impressionism without copying Claude Monet.  He painted mainly in Giverny and its surroundings, but also in Yport, Veules Les Roses, and Honfleur.  He also did some paintings in Paris and New York where he painted in the Hudson River Valley and was among the first Americans to paint New York state scenes in an impressionistic fashion.  The birth of his two children gave him the opportunity to paint familial scenes indoors and outdoors.

Butler acted as an important resource for other Americans in Giverny well into the twentieth century.  The Butler's house was always a friendly place.  Among his closest painter friends were Philip Hale, William Hart, Pierre Bonnard, and Maximilien Luce.

Sources include:
John Hazeltine of TFAOI (Traditional Fine Arts Online)
Theodore Butler Catalogue Raisonné.


Biography from Hollis Taggart Galleries (Artists, A-D):
Theodore Earl Butler was born in Columbus, Ohio, the son of a prominent businessman. After college he attended the Art Students League of New York, studying under painters William Merritt Chase, J. Carroll Beckwith, and Thomas Wilmer Dewing. In New York he became a close friend to the Impressionist painters Theodore Robinson, J. Alden Weir, and his fellow student at the League, Philip Leslie Hale, who would be a prominent member of the Boston School of painters around the turn of the century. Together with Hale, Butler set off for Paris late in 1886. During the following year he studied at the académies Julian and Colarossi and in the independent atelier of Carolus-Duran, with whom Beckwith had previously studied. Soon, Butler received recognition from the Paris Salon, garnering an honorable mention in 1888 for his painting "La Veuve (The Widow)." That same year he visited Giverny for the first time; he settled in the quiet village in 1892, becoming part of a vital art community.

The American expatriate artists at Giverny constituted a close-knit group, very supportive of each other and very interested in the latest art trends and theories. The greatest influence on them all was Claude Monet, the longtime Giverny resident. Butler married Suzanne Hoschedé, Monet’s stepdaughter, in 1892, thus becoming intimately connected to the Monet family despite the older artist’s initial objections. Actually, Butler and Monet grew to be very close to one another; however, artistically speaking, Butler’s personal direction was always very clear, and he pursued an independent and daring course throughout his career.

In 1899, Suzanne passed away, leaving Butler with two small children, Jimmy, age six, and Lili, age four. Suzanne’s sister Marthe became their surrogate mother and eventually Butler’s second wife, but it was a marriage based upon friendship and necessity, for Butler mourned the loss of Suzanne for many years.

Butler returned to the United States with his family in 1913 to install murals in the suburban New York home of William A. Paine. He contributed two canvases to the International Exhibition of Modern Art (more familiarly known as the “Armory Show”), which was held in New York that year. The First World War forced the Butlers to remain in New York until 1921. Butler served as vice president of the Society of Independent Artists and participated in the society’s exhibitions on a regular basis.

Following his return to Giverny, Butler worked tirelessly for the next decade and a half. Utilizing a palette of impressionist colors, he continued to challenge himself professionally as he explored various post-Impressionist techniques. He participated in the annual exhibitions of the Salon d’Automne, of which he was a Sociétaire. Butler died at Giverny on May 2, 1936.

© Copyright 2008 Hollis Taggart Galleries

Biography from Heritage Auctions:
Claude Monet and the artists' colony at Giverny helped transform Ohio native Theodore Butler into a premiere Post-Impressionist painter. He studied at the Art Students League in New York and at the Académies Julian and Colarossi in Paris before traveling to Giverny in 1888. At Giverny, Butler crafted his own style, combining Impressionist color and brushwork with Post-Impressionist abstracted, flattened forms and an emphasis on patterning. Butler married Monet’s step-daughter Suzanne Hoschedé and, after her death, her sister, Marthe Hoschedé.

By the 1910s, Butler was producing landscapes with more vivid Fauve-like color. During this later period, he also particiated in the 1913 Armory Show in Chicago and helped organize the Society of Independent Artists with John Sloan. Today his works can be seen at the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh; El Paso Museum of Art; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Oklahoma City Museum of Art; Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia; and Phoenix Art Museum.

Biography from R.H. Love Galleries:
Although one of America’s most innovative post-impressionist painters, Theodore Earl Butler did not receive the recognition he deserved in his lifetime, since he was all but eclipsed by his famous father-in-law, Claude Monet. Born in 1861, Butler enrolled in the Art Students League in New York, then he studied in various art academies in Paris. Already in the Salon of 1888 he exhibited a painting that received an Honorable Mention. That summer, with Theodore Wendel, Butler discovered Giverny, the village that was to become the foremost impressionist artists’ colony. Initially inspired by Monet, who had settled there in 1883, Butler surpassed the impressionist aesthetic of Monet; using the French painter’s high-keyed palette as a springboard, he developed his own technique, and a style that forecasts elements of the Nabis movement, such as the simplification of forms, a use of pronounced contours, and flattened spatial effects.

Butler sent his paintings regularly to American exhibitions: those of the Pennsylvania Academy, the National Academy of Design and the Society of American Artists. Still tied to impressionist subject matter, Butler applied his own vivid, energy-charged brushwork, striking color, highly saturated pigment, and boldly executed compositions that anticipate the canvases of Matisse. Butler married Suzanne Hoschedé, the daughter of Alice Hoschedé, with whom Monet was living out of wedlock.

Butler exhibited at the progressive Barc de Boutteville Show in 1894, then the prestigious Vollard Gallery hosted a one-man show for Butler in 1897, however, French critics classified his art as imitative of Monet, as they joined in the anti-American sentiment of the fin de siPcle. Meanwhile he participated in the exhibitions of the Société des Artistes Indépendants and at the Salon d’Automne where the Fauves made their sensational debut. Butler traveled to New York, where he executed the innovative Brooklyn Bridge, which was very well received.

Henceforth, Butler turned from genre scenes to landscape painting. He expanded his virtuoso brushwork, Fauve-like color, fluid line, and abstraction of form. Various one-man shows took place. As an innovator, Butler took part in the Armory Show in Chicago, in 1913, then sent works to the Panama-Pacific International Exhibition in San Francisco two years later. Between 1912 and 1916 Butler executed murals for private patrons, including Cornelius Vanderbilt III. In 1917 he participated in the organizational work of the Society of Independent Artists, with John Sloan.

Limited exposure in America and anti-American sentiment in France prevented Butler from gaining the recognition commensurate with his pioneering achievements in art. Great dealers such as Le Barc de Boutteville, Vollard, and Bernheim-Jeune recognized Butler’s innovations but French critics assigned him to the shadow of his celebrated father-in-law. Butler, while remaining in the famous village, chose a more avant-garde path as he would become a leading American post-impressionist. Only recently has his proper place in the history of American art been affirmed.

Butler died in Giverny in May of 1936, by now a great modern American master.


LITERATURE:
Love, Richard H. Theodore Earl Butler: Emergence from Monet’s Shadow. Chicago: Haase-Mumm Publishing Co., 1985.



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Theodore Butler is also mentioned in these AskART essays:
New York Armory Show of 1913
Impressionists Pre 1940
San Francisco Panama-Pacific Exhibition 1915
Paris Pre 1900



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