Charles Harry Eaton (1850-1901). "Marshlands," 1887, oil on board, 24 x 36, signed.
MARSHLANDS IS A CHARLES HARRY EATON MASTERPIECE!
Collectors of great American landscape masterpieces know there are two Eatons--Charles Harry and Charles Warren. Ever since we saw Charles Harry Eaton's Lily Pond in the collection of the Detroit Art Museum, we have wanted to acquire one of his powerful landscapes. He is a pre-eminent realist with tonalist touches in the tradition of Hugh Bolton Jones, Edward Parker Hayden and Charles Paul Gruppe. By contrast, Charles Warren Eaton is known for his luminist landscapes with hazy, shadowy tonalist elements in the Inness tradition, and later for a subtle and unique monochromatic realism.
Charles Harry Eaton was self taught, but during the years 1867 to 1878, Eaton formed a partnership in Detroit with a portrait painter named James E. Maxfield, Jr., under the firm name of Maxfield and Eaton. An inheritance in 1869, gave him some artistic freedom, but his investments in Great Lakes shipping turned sour--hence the partnership with Maxwell. Eaton left Detroit for Holly, Michigan in 1878, but soon established himself in Leonia New Jersey, where he built his studio and a home he nicknamed "Cricket." Working from Leonia, Eaton was active in East Coast art circles. His memberships included the Salmagundi Club, the Boston Art Club, the Detroit Artists Association, the Western Art Association, and the American Art Association.
Eaton was elected an Associate member of the National Academy of Design in 1893, and was serving as President at the time of his death. Similarly, he was Secretary of the American Watercolor Society for 14 years, becoming President in 1901, the year of his death. His work won medals in exhibit after exhibit, including a silver medal at the Boston Art Club in 1887; gold medals at the American Art Association in 1888 and the Evans Prize at the American Watercolor Society in 1898. He won a gold medal at the Philadelphia Art Club in 1900, exhibiting "The Willows." The same work was exhibited at the Paris Exposition in 1889, and at the World's Fair in Chicago, in 1893. His paintings can be seen at the Mead Museum, the Detroit Institute, the National Academy of Design, and in other public and private collections throughout the United States. Critics, ourselves included, admire the extreme clarity of Eaton's style, applauding his closeness to nature and ability to capture particular moods. A reviewer in the Art Interchange (1902) sums up this appreciation: "A true lover of nature was he. All her moods appealed to his quick sympathy; the lights and shadows falling on the foliage from sunrise to midday he loved to paint, and the sunset glory found reflection in his soul. The rain-washed cleanliness after a storm he depicted in one painting so perfectly it seemed as though one could almost smell the odors of wet leaves and moss, and feel the cool, fresh breeze in his face--the sunlight breaking through leaded skies formed tiny rainbows in the drops on the foliage. There was a peculiar atmosphere about his pictures that attracted not only artists, but those who knew nothing of art standards; their truth to nature drew and held the interest." We think this passage applies to Marshlands as well. There is the precise rendition that captures even the tinest elements of the natural world--and the sense that these myriad grasses, leaves, flowers and trees coming together is what creates natural beauty. And the act of observation lets us participate in this beauty as rendered by a master like Eaton. His landscapes are perfectly and completely real, pointing our eyes to nature's absolute perfection.