Charles Herbert Woodbury (1864 - 1940)
Study of Water, Ogunquit, Maine, n.d.
Oil on canvas on board
8 1/4 x 10 1/4 inches
Inscribed verso by Elizabeth Ward Perkins: Study of Water / by / C. H. Woodbury / owned by E. W. P.
Elizabeth Ward Perkins
John H. Mansfield, her grandson
Private Collection, California
Charles Woodbury was a highly influential teacher and exponent of painting en plein air to generations of students. He founded the Ogunquit School of painting, which largely established the area as a preeminent artist’s colony. Woodbury extolled his students “to paint in verbs, not in nouns,” a philosophy he energetically adhered to in his own paintings.
Woodbury was born in Lynn, Massachusetts and began sketching and painting as a boy. His first intention was to be an engineer, however, and he studied at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, graduating in 1886, though he soon determined that he was better suited to be a full- time artist. While at MIT, Woodbury was asked to join the Boston Art Club and began teaching art to a handful of students. He took informal art classes in watercolor with Ross Turner, who was also teaching in the architecture program at MIT, an interaction which convinced Woodbury to pursue a professional career in the arts.
Woodbury went to Europe for the first time in 1890, and took his first (and only) formal art classes at the Academie Julian in Paris. Woodbury proclaimed Nature to be his first and best teacher, however, noting that “all my best pictures have been painted out-of-doors. I might say that all my knowledge has been gained in the open air.” (Boston Journal, March 20, 1890, as quoted in Earth, Sea and Sky: Charles H. Woodbury, p. 31)
While Woodbury began teaching in Boston as soon as he and his wife returned from Europe, his most important contribution to American art began when he started offering outdoor summer painting classes in Ogunquit, Maine in 1898. Woodbury painted as he taught, emphasizing the natural grace, harmony and energy of the natural world. The rocky coast of Maine, the surging water and strong summer light were all natural subjects, as were the bathers and beachgoers.