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Curator's Comment: Charles Warren Eaton (1857-1937)and Charles Harry Eaton are both major
painters of American landscape masterpieces. And both migrated to New Jersey for their best work. But
in no other way are they related. Mistakes to the contrary are frequent. Because both painters produced
some of the most important natural images in the years following the Hudson River school. Charles
Warren Eaton was influenced by two major periods of European study. The first made him a leader
among American tonalists. He became a close friend of Leonard Ochtman and Ben Foster, both
tonalists, and traveled with them to France and England where each formed their own style in reaction
to the pervasive Barbizon style. Eaton stayed in Europe, painting in Brolles, near Barbizon, where he
made a pilgrimage to the home of Jean Francois Millet.
In 1882, Eaton met George Inness at the Art Students League. Writing to Ochtman, Eaton described a
lecture Inness gave one day to his composition class. He was deeply impressed by it, and Inness
singled out Eaton’s work for showing promise. Eaton was guided by the poetic style of Inness and its
desire to convey the underlying moods of nature, favoring quieter, more intimate views, which he
depicted at dawn or dusk. His still landscapes portray the fading light on autumn meadows that his
tonalism focused on. His intimate, moody landscapes were known for subdued golden-brown hues and
muted tonal harmonies. About 1900, Eaton discovered the white pine forests of Connecticut, near his
summer haunt of Thompson. For the ten years that followed, he made the white pine tree motif his
primary subject, and he was often called “The Pine Tree Painter.” These works soon secured his
reputation as one of the country’s leading landscape tonalists, and note that his major 2004
retrospective was entitled: Intimate Landscapes: Charles Warren Eaton and the Tonalist Movement in
American art, 1880-1920.
.Eaton began extended stays in Italy after 1910, staying for the first time at Lake Como. And his Italian
stays redirected his work in a major way. Tonalism gives way to a subtle realism that resulted in late
masterpieces where tone becomes hue, and we thinks Oaks Pond is a symphony of green hues that is
perfectly beautiful. Eaton limited his palette to monochromatic scale and sharpened his vision to
capture not reflected glorified light but the radiance of his subjects. Harmony is all in these brilliant
paintings that were his final achievement as a landscape artist. We first saw Oaks Pond when it was
offered for sale by the eminent Spanierman Gallery, and many years later we acquired it, still thrilled
by the perfection of its green world.
Eaton was born in 1857 in Albany, NY. His first few years in New York were difficult; nonetheless,
Eaton was an adept student, and his first landscape paintings won quick approval from juries, critics,
and collectors. By 1882 he was exhibiting at the National Academy of Design. In 1888 Eaton moved to
Bloomfield, New Jersey, to be near Montclair, where an Inness-led art community was taking shape.
But he maintained a studio in New York City. He died in 1937. Now his paintings hang in the
Smithsonian, the Brooklyn Museum, and other major museums nationwide. He won prize after prize:
Inness Prize, Salmagundi Club, 1902; gold medal, Philadelphia Art Club, 1903; Inness Gold. Medal,
National Academy of Design, 1904; gold medal, Paris Salon, 1906. Eaton died in 1937.
Brilliant early 'pine tree' tonalism' matures into harmonic monochrome perfection.
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Oaks Pond, Oil on Canvas, 20 x 24, Signed, Lemon Gold Frame
|Charles Warren Eaton, the Tonalist Master,
Creates a Symphony in Green