Daniel Garber 1880-1958

The Oriole

  • 30 1/8 x 28 1/4 inches (76.5 x 71.8 cm)
  • Oil on canvas
  • Signed lower center: Daniel Garber. Inscribed on verso on crossbar: The Oriole / by / Daniel Garber. Inscribed on verso on top stretcher: Tanis Page.
  • 1925

Why We Love It

Garber is undoubtedly one of the most highly esteemed among the school of Pennsylvania Impressionists. While he produced numerous landscapes of the New Hope region, his figurative paintings of his wife and children are some of his most rare and exceptional works. This picture depicts his wife, Mary, in their country home, and Garber deftly captures her in a moment of quiet introspection as she gazes out the window at a bird singing just beyond the picture plane.

The Value

Garber’s figurative paintings are more rare than his landscapes, making them a special part of his oeuvre. The Oriole is an exceptional work in every way. The provenance, condition, frame, and exhibition history are all superb, as is the fact that the painting beautifully captures Mary’s quiet of moment of reflection in the Garber country home. In paintings like this one Garber transcends the regionalism of Pennsylvania Impressionism and places himself squarely on the national stage of American painting at its finest.

Artist Background

1880: Born in North Manchester, Indiana; 1897: Enrolled at the Cincinnati Art Academy; 1899: Attended summer classes at the Darby School of Painting in Fort Washington, Pennsylvania, where he studied with Thomas Anshutz and Hugh Breckenridge. Met future wife, Mary Franklin, who was student at the Philadelphia School of Design for Women (PSDW); 1899-1905: Attended the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA), where he studied with Anshutz, William Merritt Chase, and perhaps Cecilia Beaux; 1905: Awarded PAFA’s Cresson Traveling Scholarship, which allowed him to study for two years in England, Italy and Paris; 1907: Returned to the United States and settled in Lumberville, Pennsylvania (an enclave in New Hope). Began teaching at PSDW; 1909: Awarded First Hallegarten Prize from the National Academy of Design (NAD). Joined faculty of PAFA, where he remained an instructor until 1950; 1910s-20s: Won numerous awards and achieved great critical acclaim; 1915: Won gold medal at Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco; 1919: Began teaching at PAFA’s Chester Springs summer school; 1958: Died from an accidental fall outside his studio.

While best known for his richly textured landscapes of the Pennsylvania countryside around New Hope, Daniel Garber was equally talented as a portrait and figure painter. He completed a number of commissioned works of Philadelphia physicians, but his finest figural paintings featured those closest to him: his wife, Mary, their daughter, Tanis, and son, John. They were Garber’s favorite models and often posed for him in their Philadelphia residence on Green Street, where the family wintered while he taught at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, or at their country home, “Cuttalossa,” in Lumberville during the warmer months. These paintings were deeply personal moments in Garber’s family life, yet they also evoked such universal themes of optimism, leisure, nostalgia, and familial love and harmony – ideas that were at the very center of Garber’s artistic philosophy and intention.

The Oriole shows Mary Garber quietly seated on the arched porch of their country house, gazing out the window at a bird singing just beyond the picture plane. Garber deftly captures Mary’s self-possession and introspection, which were defining aspects of her personality. She was a thinker, a reader, and artist in her own right. Garber beautifully portrays the strength of her character during a personal moment of reflection. Indeed, the painting was alternately titled Meditation.

While most of The Oriole depicts the interior space, Garber’s fascination with and skill for capturing dazzling light effects is clearly evident in the splash of sunlight on the wall, in the verdant green gardens in the background, and in the treatment of the highlights and shadows on the potted azalea and on the folds of Mary’s kimono. The stitch-like brushwork creates the signature tapestry effect that marks Garber’s best paintings. Interestingly, The Oriole and most of Garber’s figural works were painted in the studio and not outdoors. He keenly observed the outdoor light before embarking on the paintings, but working in the studio gave him greater control over the final results.

Garber hoped to achieve boldness and monumentality in his figural paintings, and The Oriole is no exception. These works capture the optimistic spirit and lyrical beauty that were critical to Garber’s conception of his art; they also speak to Garber’s connection to his family and home, and everything that meant to him.