In the Orchard, Edmund Charles Tarbell
Apparently, Edmund Tarbell — one of most noted of the painters classified as “American Impressionists” — liked to say that he wasn’t particularly influenced by the French Impressionist painters he encountered in Europe.
This is where I cough into my hand, smirk and say, “Yeah, right!”, as the influence is pretty obvious. That being said, Tarbell is certainly an exemplar of what made the American Impressionists particularly different from their French counterparts, and we see it in this strikingly beautiful work.
Though rendered in the short, painterly strokes of brilliant color associated with high Impressionism, the figures who sit amid sunlight and dappled shadow in Tarbell’s idyllic scene are drawn with Academic solidity — a foundation that the French Impressionists, in their revolt against the artistic establishment, felt they had to abandon.
The models are Tarbell’s wife, her sisters, and a family friend. The painting was meant to bring the artist attention when he exhibited it at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. It succeeded in that role and Tarbell did not sell the painting, keeping it for the remainder of his career.
The painting remains stunning, as I can attest from having the pleasure of seeing it in a memorable Tarbell exhibition that visited the Delaware Art Museum in 2002. It’s large — roughly 5 x 5 ft (154 x 166 cm) — and it envelops you it its inviting remembrance of leisurely summer days.