Born in Groton, Massachusetts in 1862, impressionist painter Edmund Charles Tarbell studied with George H. Bartlett at the Massachusetts Normal Art School, under Otto Grundmann at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and in 1883, entered the Académie Julian to study under Gustave Boulanger and Jules Joseph Lefebvre. In 1884, his education included a Grand Tour to Italy and the following year to Belgium, Germany and Brittany.
Tarbell returned to Boston in 1886 where he began his career as an illustrator, private art instructor and portrait painter. He was a member of the Ten American Painters and was a leading member of a group of painters which came to be known as the Boston School.
In 1889 Tarbell assumed the position of his former mentor, Otto Grundmann, at the Museum School. His students included Bertha Coolidge, Margaret Fitzhugh Browne, Marie Danforth Page, F. Luis Mora, Marguerite Stuber Pearson and Lilian Westcott Hale. With financial backing from Lilla Cabot Perry, painter and affluent Brahmin, The Guild of Boston Artists opened in 1914. Tarbell was its first president, serving through 1924. In 1918, Tarbell was hired as principal of the art school at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., a position he held until 1926.
Tarbell was a member of the National Academy of Design and fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. His works are held in the permanent collections of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Metropolitan Museum of Art, National Gallery of Art, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Corcoran Gallery of Art, DeYoung Museum, National Academy Museum and School, New Britain Museum of American Art and Worcester Art Museum, among others.