Charles Warren Eaton (1857 – 1937) was born in Albany, New York on February 22, 1857. The son of Daniel O. and Mary Bounds Eaton, he was an eighth generation descendant of Francis Eaton who arrived in America on the Mayflower in 1620. He showed little interest in art until his twenties when he began to feel so drawn to it that he quit his job as a dry-goods clerk and moved to New York City in 1879. Eaton enrolled at the National Academy of Design and then studied figure painting with J. Carroll Beckwith at the Art Students League.
Eaton resided in Bloomfield, New Jersey for fifty years at 63 Monroe Place and maintained a studio at this residence. His New York studio was located at 139 West 55th Street and an important event occurred there in 1889. As related by Eaton, George Inness, who had a studio in the same building, walked through his open door one day, admired his paintings then stepped back to read the name on the door-plate. Inness returned the next day, purchased a painting, and initiated a relationship which would remain a source of pride to Eaton. His residence in Bloomfield made Eaton a close neighbor to George Inness who lived in Montclair and to George Jr. who was building a large home near the Bay Avenue border of Bloomfield in the late eighties. Eaton and Inness Jr., who were the same age, became friends and Inness Jr. regularly invited Eaton to paint in his spacious new Bay Avenue studio which was within walking distance of Eaton’s home.
Eaton became a close associate of Leonard Ochtman, a native Dutchman, and Ben Foster, both Tonalist painters, and he traveled with them to France and England where each artist formed his own style in reaction to the pervasive Barbizon style of rural landscape and genre painting. They also visited Holland where Eaton painted many canal scenes.
Eaton painted many snow scenes in white and grey purple tones, but by 1900 he had discovered the white pine forests of Connecticut near his summer haunts of Thompson and Colebrook. These were his most popular paintings at the National Academy’s annual exhibitions and he was soon dubbed The Pine Tree Painter. Tall, dark pines silhouetted against sunset and moonlit skies became a specialty and firmly established Eaton as an American Tonalist.
Eaton spent the summers of 1910, 1911 and 1912 as well as 1923 in Italy. He was entranced by the hillside villages around Lake Como, particularly Bellagio and Varenna, and his palette of brilliant whites, rich oranges, greens and blues, brightened considerably due to a new interest in broad daylight, was a definite break from his previously Tonalist mode. Heavier impasto and choppy brushwork also characterize these later works.
Eaton won many prizes including gold medals at the Philadelphia Art Club (1903) and the National Academy of Design (1904). He was awarded silver medals at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo (1901), the Charleston Exposition (1902), the St. Louis Exposition (1904) and the Buenos Aires Exposition (1910). He was a member of the Salmagundi Club, the American Watercolor Society, the New York Watercolor Club (a founding member in 1890), the Artists’ Fund Society and the Lotus Club.
Eaton never married and retired at the age of seventy; he did not paint at all during the last ten years of his life. He died on September 10, 1937 at Mountainside Hospital in Glen Ridge, New Jersey. Eaton left his entire estate which included his house and several hundred of his paintings to Priscilla Polkinghorn, the granddaughter of Samuel Foster, a life-long friend of the artist.
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