Webster was among the first and most forceful modern American painters, and he created some of the most adventurous paintings of his time. In a dynamic career spanning forty years, he traveled widely in Europe, North Africa, the Azore Islands, Jamaica and Bermuda, chasing the sundrenched color that would inform his own high-keyed palette and superb expression of light.
From the heat of his tropical canvases to the crispness of his New England snowscapes, Webster developed a compellingly original landscape idiom. Throughout, Webster painted some of the most vigorous and visceral expressions of color in American art, admired by American artists ranging from Maurice Prendergast to Edward Hopper to Richard Diebenkorn. Seeing a brilliant painting by Webster was, as the artist’s contemporary Charles Hovey Pepper commented, “like stepping from a dark room into the glare of open day.”
From his earliest days in Paris, Webster admired the works of and perhaps knew Renoir, Aman-Jean, and Aubrey Beardsley. Webster maintained connections in an international community of artists that included Henri Matisse, Albert Gleizes and Jean Metzinger. At home in Provincetown, Webster was closely associated with Edward Hopper, Charles Hawthorne and Charles Demuth— notably, Hopper said that Webster was an artist in whom he could “find no flaw.”
After initial studies under Edmund Tarbell and Frank Benson in Boston, he spent nearly three years in Europe absorbing the latest developments in the Post-Impressionist art world. By 1900 he returned to the United States, and, having developed his own original idiom, became a prominent member of the progressive art community. Over the years he traveled widely in France, Spain, Italy, North Africa, the Azore Islands, Jamaica and Bermuda, seeking the sunlight heightened color which inspired him. In 1906, while painting in the Caribbean, he exhibited a work which secured the Musgrave Silver Medal from the Institute of Jamaica. By 1913 he was exhibiting in Boston and Cleveland with Charles Hovey Pepper, Carl G. Cutler and Maurice Prendergast.
Webster also participated in the 1913 International Exhibition of Modern Art (The Armory Show) and showed in New York thereafter.
Webster’s work is found in many public collections such as the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the National Gallery of Art and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, DC; the Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia; The Huntington in San Marino, CA; the Bermuda Masterworks Foundation; Greenville County Museum of Art in South Carolina; and the Speed Art Museum, Louisville, among others.
Webster’s work has figured prominently in publications and exhibitions including the High Art Museum’s The Advent of Modernism (1987), William Gerdts’ Art Across America (1987) and his landmark work The Color of Modernism: The American Fauves (1997) as well as Gail Scott’s 2009 monograph E. Ambrose Webster, Chasing the Sun.