Edward Emerson Simmons (1852 - 1931)
Our Back Yard When I was Young, 1919
Oil on canvasboard
12 x 16 inches
Signed and dated lower right: Edward Simmons / 1919
Signed, dated, and titled verso: Our Back Yard When I was Young / August 1919 / Edward Simmons
The Jean and Graham Devoe Williford Charitable Trust
Simmons grew up in the Old Manse in Concord, surrounded by relatives and family friends who included Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and Louisa May Alcott. He was graduated from Harvard in 1874 and traveled west, first to Cincinnati, Ohio, where he became an oil company agent and a tutor, and later to California. He worked in a San Francisco department store and then left to experience the frontier in the northern counties near Mt. Shasta.
Determined to become an artist, he returned to Boston in 1878 and studied at the Museum School with Frederick Crowninshield and at the Lowell Institute with William Rimmer. In 1879, he continued his training at the Academie Julian in Paris. He first exhibited his work at the 1881 Salon, and from 1881 to 1886 maintained a studio at Concarneau, Brittany. After his marriage in 1886, he made an extended trip to Spain, and moved to St. Ives, Cornwall, where a sizable artistsí community, including Laurence Alma-Tadema and Anders Zorn, was forming. Simmons stayed in England for five years, exhibiting his romanticized genre scenes and more freely painted landscapes at the Royal Academy, and spent summers in France visiting Barbizon, Montreuil, and Grez.
After thirteen years abroad, Simmons returned to the United States in 1891 and settled in New York. He designed a memorial window for his Harvard class, and the following year traveled to Chicago, where he completed his first mural commission for the Liberal Arts Building of the Columbian Exposition. Simmons became known primarily as a decorative painter, producing compositions for the New York Criminal Courts Building (1895), the Library of Congress (1896), the Panama Pacific Exposition (1913), countless state capitol buildings, and private homes. In 1902, he was commissioned to paint two murals for the Boston State House, one depicting the Battle of Concord and the other the Return of the Flags to the State after the Civil War. Simmons also continued to create easel paintings, though these are less known, in a colorful, linear style. He was a founding member of The Ten, with whom he occasionally exhibited portraits and studies for his mural commissions.