Eaton, the Photographer Excerpted from Maureen C. O'Brien, Charles Warren Eaton: Montclair Art Museum, Montclair, New Jersey, 1980, Exhibition catalog
Eaton’s interest in contemporary photography was one which he shared with many of his American colleagues, and which had been given a focus in his own neighborhood with the founding of the Montclair Camera Club in 1898. Eaton joined the Montclair Camera Club, as did most of his colleagues in the Montclair art colony. He did not simply experiment with the camera but became a competent and avid photographer and used his instrument to compose and secure the views of Bruges canals and Flemish poplars which would be translated onto canvas in his winter studios.[See the gallery Photo-Painting Pairings for comparisons of Eaton's paintings to the photgraph used for the painting]
A sample of these photographs reprinted from original negatives (Bruges Canals #090, Sluis Canals #811 and Bruges Rural #048) shows a bold and frequently exceptional use of the camera to raise the horizon, select elegant curves in landscape, or capture a racing, angled, double perspective of poplars along a canal. These are not the compositions one associates with a tourist's snapshots. They instead show a selective eye which probably had been influenced by two of the major forces in twentieth century photography, Alfred Stieglitz and Edward Steichen. Stieglitz's exhibition of Photo-Secession photographs at the National Arts Club, New York, in 1902, and the concept of "pictorial photography," which he put forth in Camera Notes and Camera Work, must have educated and inspired Eaton. Stieglitz was, without doubt, the talk of amateur photography circles in the years in which Eaton was developing his camera technique, and his frequent use of an atmospheric veil to soften edges exactly matched the style of Eaton's pine tree paintings of 1900-1910. It is interesting to note, as well, the similarities between Eaton's close-perspective pine forests and contemporary landscape paintings and photographs of Edward Steichen. Eaton may have appeared old-fashioned in remaining sensitive to nature's poetic content in the twentieth century, but this seems less antiquated a concept when his paintings are examined for, and compared with, the pictorial qualities sought by avant-garde photographers.
Eaton, the Artist Excerpted from Charles Teaze Clark and Maureen C. O'Brien, Charles Warren Eaton: Montclair Art Museum, Montclair, New Jersey, 1980, Exhibition catalog.
Charles Warren Eaton was born in Albany, New York, on February 22, 1857. By 1882 his first paintings were accepted for exhibition at the National Academy of Design and, according to Eaton, one of these – a scene of Staten Island – was purchased by Oscar Wilde, who was then visiting the United States.
In 1886, Eaton shared a studio at 9 East 17th Street with Ben Foster and Leonard Ochtman, and made his first trip abroad with these two artists that summer. Although Eaton continued to work in the New York studio, by 1888 he had established a country residence in Bloomfield, New Jersey, which he would call home for the rest of his life.
The Bloomfield residence made Eaton a close neighbor to George Inness in Montclair, and to George Inness Jr.. Eaton and Innes Jr., who were the same age, became friends, and both were active members of the Salmagundi Club.
During the years from 1900 through 1910 Eaton secured both private patronage and public recognition. His major awards from American and international exhibitions included: honorable mention, Exposition Universelle, Paris, 1900; silver medal, Pan-American Exposition, Buffalo, 1901; Proctor Prize, Salmagundi Club, 1901; Inness Prize, Salmagundi Club, 1902; silver medal, Charleston Exposition,1902; Shaw Prize, Salmagundi Club,1903; gold medal, Philadelphia Art Club, 1903; silver medal, St. Louis Exposition, 1904; Inness Gold Medal, National Academy of Design, 1904; médaille troisième classe, Paris Salon (Société des artistes français), 1906; silver medal, Exposicion Internacional de Arte del Centenario, Buenos Aires, 1910.
About the Collection
Eaton bequeathed his estate including hundreds of paintings and his collection of negatives to Priscilla Douglas Polkinghorn. She, in turn, donated the negatives to the Historical Society of Bloomfield.
About the Negatives
The negatives are acetate and they were not stored under optimal conditions. I repaired them digitally as well as I could (removing spots and blemishes and balancing lighting and improving contrast) using Photoshop. I selected the best photos. I included several photos from damaged negatives where I thought the photo was worthy of inclusion even with its flaws.
The negatives were not well captioned or labeled. Most of them were in sections that were labeled by the name of the town, country or region, and some were clearly mislabeled. If you recognize any of these locations, or detect any errors, use the Send Comments button under a specific photo to send comments or corrections for that photo.
Use of these Photos
We hope you will use these photographs for educational purposes and for appreciation of Eaton’s work and share links to them freely. If you share them, please attribute them to this site. These photos are copyrighted and are not to be used for commercial purposes. If you want to use them in any way other than sharing links for educational purposes, please check with us first.
Thanks to Charles Clark for his support – motivational, editorial and financial. Without his shared passion for Eaton's work, I wouldn’t have completed this project.
Thanks to the Historical Society of Bloomfield for preserving this collection and making it available.
Thanks to Priscilla Douglas Polkinghorn for cherishing these negatives.
I am eternally grateful to Charles Warren Eaton for his contributions to art and photography. I created this site as a tribute to him.
Rich Rockwell, April 9, 2022.