E. Ambrose Webster

E. AMBROSE WEBSTER

1869-1935

[Edwin Ambrose Webster painting in his studio]

Education:

Boston Museum of Fine Arts School (studied under Edmund Tarbell and Frank Benson)

Academie Julian

 

Exhibitions:

Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, 1907-1909, 1915, 1924

Boston Art Club

Armory Show, 1913

Art Institute of Chicago

Cocoran Gallery of Art, biennial exhibitions, 1914-1928

Society of Independent Artists, 1930

Provincetown Art Association and Museum

 

Collections:

Provincetown Art Association and Museum

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery

 

Biography:

Edwin Ambrose Webster was born in Chelsea, Massachusetts, and grew up in the suburbs of Boston. He attended art school at the Museum School, where he studied under Edmund Tarbell and Frank Benson. Webster then followed in the footsteps of his teachers and went on to study at the Academie Julian and with Albert Gleizes in Paris for two years (1896-1898). These teachers, and his experience overseas, set Webster on the path to becoming the vanguard Modernist that he is known as today.

Webster was one of the first artists to settle in the now famous art colony of Provincetown. Struck by the quality of the coastal light, he took up residence there after returning from France in 1898. Shortly after, he began to teach summer classes, which quickly grew in popularity. In the winters, he traveled to the tropics and Bermuda, where he painted some of his most impressive and daring landscapes.

Webster, in insisting on the primacy of color, was truly among the vanguard Modernists in America. Two of his paintings hung in the 1913 Armory Show alongside other renowned Modernists such as Matisse, Derain, Van Gogh, Hopper, Demuth and Hartley. The novel and inspired approach to color presented in Webster’s Fauvist paintings influenced the development of a number of his contemporaries. Artist Houghton Cranford Smith observed of Webster’s color: “This was all new stuff in Provincetown—we were not used to such bright colors…[Webster] opened my eyes to the marvelous things color can do for objects.”

Following his Fauvist works, Webster began an exploration of Cubist techniques. He continued exploring this mode of representation until his death in 1935. His school he continued to run until 1934, inspiring the careers of numerous young artists in these later years. One of these students, an artist named Kenneth Stubbs, was particularly close to Webster. Stubbs recognized Webster’s genius and appreciated the analytical process with which he approached these new cubist inspired compositions. He once said of Webster: “He was by far the most inspiring teacher I had.” After Webster’s death, Stubbs remained an ardent admirer and organized a series of exhibitions of Webster’s work. These shows led to numerous private and museum purchases, and a new recognition of Webster’s contributions to the development of Modern art. Now the Stubbs’ collection continues to provide a unique and insightful view into the work of Ambrose Webster.

Image: Edwin Ambrose Webster painting in his studio, 192-? / unidentified photographer. Edwin Ambrose Webster papers, 1804-1970. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.