Charles Warren Eaton 1857–1937
Charles Warren Eaton will be remembered as one of the chief members of the Tonalist movement, along with Henry Ward Ranger, Elliott Daingerfield and others who benefited from the lessons of French Barbizon painting and, more immediately, from the example of the poetic style of George Inness.
Born in Albany, Eaton showed little interest in art until his twenties when he came to New York City and began studying at the Art Students' League and the National Academy of Design. He readily absorbed the Barbizon work shown at the Academy as well as paintings by American landscapists. His studio mate, Leonard Ochtman, was a native Dutchman who no doubt stirred Eaton's interest in Europe. In 1886 he traveled with Ochtman to Grez, Paris, London and Holland. Eaton's first mature themes of the 1890s were those of bridges and the neighboring countryside executed in an atmospheric, mood-evoking style.
In 1899, George Inness, who had a studio in the same building as Eaton, purchased one of Eaton’s paintings. This initiated a relationship which would remain a source of pride to Eaton. Like Elliott Daingerfield, Eaton was one of a few younger artists who could claim Inness as a mentor, and he enjoyed the opportunity to observe Inness's personal and impassioned approach to landscape painting.
Around 1900, Eaton 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 annuals and he was 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.
His mature works, around 1910 and thereafter, were a break from this Tonalist mode. His palette brightened considerably, due to a new interest in broad daylight. Heavier impasto and choppy brushwork also characterize this late work.
The artist died in New York City in 1937.