Sunday, December 04, 2005

Presidential Uncle Theodore Earl Butler

Theodore Earl Butler was drawn to France by his desire to study art, and then to live there; he eventually died in Giverny, France in 1936. Butler was the son of a wealthy Columbus business owner Courtland Philip Livingston Butler (U.S. President Bush's paternal g-g-g-grandfather), a decendant of Livingston manor lords and successful merchant van Courtlandt New York families. Butler studied at Marietta College in Ohio, then with Albert Fauley in Columbus, Ohio. He then journeyed to New York (Art Students League, 1883-85), and eventually, to Paris, where, between 1887-88 he studied at the Acadacutemie Julian, the Acadacutemie Colarossi, and the Acadacutemie de la Grande Chaumiere. In 1888 he studied privately with Carolus Duran.

"While in Paris in 1888, Butler and Theodore Wendel, a fellow Ohioan and student from the Acadacutemie Julian, both boarded a train for Normandy. They arrived in Giverny and decided to stay and paint in the little village where Monet lived and maintained his studio and famous gardens. Butler learned the techniques of French Impressionism from the master himself. In Un Jardin Maison Baptiste (1895, Metropolitan Museum of Art), an example of the French Impressionist painting that Butler learned at Claude Monet's side, the artist used vibrating daubs of color to capture the hazy envelope of summer light found in the valley of the Seine. Monet was attracting many young American and English painters at this time, and Butler became the cornerstone of the American and English art colony that thrived in Giverny at the turn of the century.

Theodore Earl Butler lived in Paris, that was then home to the father of Impressionism, Claude Monet. Butler's married to two of Monet's stepdaughters, which brought him closer to Monet than any of the other American expatriates. Inspired and influenced by the elder artist's work, Butler's paintings reveal his own personal adaptation of Impressionism. In the spring of 1888 Butler and his artist friend Theodore Wendel arrived in Giverny.

Along with Theodore Robinson, Willard Metcalf, Lilla Cabot Perry, and John Leslie Breck, Butler was among the first American artists to reside there. This original group of Americans relied on Butler to act as their liaison with Monet, who had moved to the quaint village in 1883 and was not altogether pleased with its increasing popularity among the younger American painters. In 1892 Butler married Suzanne Hoschede, Claude Monet's stepdaughter. Suzanne, was the daughter of Monet's second wife, Alice Hoschede, was she was Monet's favorite model and it is said that she remind him of his first wife, Camille.

In these years Butler painted a series of canvases depicting familial scenes of Suzanne and their two children, James, born in 1893, and Lili, born in 1894. Several works from this series, including Bathing the Child, Playing With Jimmy, and Le Bain, Maison Baptiste, exemplify Butler's early impressionistic style with their light palettes and loose brushstrokes.

As early as the 1890s, and through the first decade of the 20th-century, Butler experimented with decoratively patterned, abstracted interior scenes similar to those by Post-Impressionists such as Pierre Bonnard and Edouard Vuillard. These works reflect his interest in pattern and color, animated with complementary dots of color dancing over an underlying matrix of repeated blocks of color. These paintings possess a formal power often associated with the works of the Nabis painters.

Butler was a member of the Salon des Independents, Paris, a life member of the Salon d'Automne, Paris, and a founding member of the Society of Independent Artists in New York. He exhibited his work regularly in Paris galleries, including the Galerie Vollard, the Galerie Thomas, and the Galerie Durand-Ruel. He also exhibited regularly in New York, and in Philadelphia at the annual exhibitions of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. His work was represented in the New York Armory Show in 1913."

Source: James M. Keny and Nannette V. Maciejunes, Triumph of Color and Light: Ohio Impressionists and Post-Impressionists, exh. cat., Columbus Museum of Art, 1994, 28, 100-101.

See Also: William H. Gerdts, Monet's Giverny: An Impressionist Colony, New York, Abbeville Press, 1993; Richard H. Love, Theodore Earl Butler (1860-1936), Chicago, Signature Galleries, 1976; and Richard H. Love, Theodore Earl Butler: Emergence from Monet's Shadow, Chicago, 1985.

Fireworks - 1906
Sold at Auction for $72,000.00 in 1998


Anonymous said...

Bizare that you are doing an article on Theodore Earl Butler. I am currently doing the catalogue raisonne of its work and lived in Oakland.
If you want to see some paintings by him do not hesitate to contact me

Aaron said...

Patrick, you gave me no contact information?

Anonymous said...

You can find me at :
thank you

Anonymous said...

You can find me at :
thank you