Theodore Earl Butler (1861 - 1936)

19th- and 20th-Century American Painting

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School House under Snow
Theodore Earl Butler was drawn to France to study art, and then to live; he died in Giverny in 1936. The son of a wealthy Columbus business owner, Butler studied at Marietta College, then with Albert Fauley in Columbus. He then journeyed to New York (Art Students League, 1883-85), and eventually, to Paris, where, between 1887-88 he studied at the Académie Julian, the Académie Colarossi, and the Académie 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 Académie Julian, 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 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.

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.
Selected Permanent Collections:

Art Institute of Chicago
Cincinnati Art Museum
Cleveland Museum of Art
Columbus Museum of Art, Ohio
Metropolitan Museum of Art
Museé Americain, Giverny, France
Musée Claude Monet, Giverny, France
Phoenix Museum of Art
Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago
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.


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