Edmund Elisha Case was among a group of talented artists working in Springfield, Massachusetts, during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, among them George Newell Bowers and Willis Seaver Adams. He produced a number of depictions of dead game, but was primarily a painter of regional landscapes, creating atmospheric views of rural scenery in a style inspired by the example of the Barbizon School.
Case was born in Suffield, Connecticut in April of 1844. After the untimely death of his parents, he moved to the city of Springfield, located on the Connecticut River, where he was raised by his aunt, Mrs. Lyman King. He received his education in local public schools and at the Suffield Institute, after which he attended Eastman’s Business College in Poughkeepsie, New York. During the Civil War, he served with the Navy. Upon being captured by the Confederates at Stone Inlet, South Carolina, Case spent several months in Libby Prison in Richmond. After the war, he went to New York, attending classes at the National Academy of Design from 1873 to 1875 and studying privately with Joseph Oriel Eaton. 1 Following the example of many of his contemporaries, he also spent time in Europe, visiting Holland, Italy, France and England, and taking classes with Tony-Robert Fleury and William Adolphe Bouguereau at the Académie Julian in Paris.
In 1875, Case returned to Springfield, where he would remain for the rest of his life, working out of a studio on Main Street that he shared with Miss Irene Parmalee. Among the generation of American artists who eschewed the dramatic wilderness subjects of the Hudson River School in favor of pastoral settings, he spent much of his time painting lyrical views of rivers, orchards, marshlands, coastlines and country lanes in Massachusetts locales such as Springfield, Stockbridge, Newburyport and Annisquam. Extant works reveal a preference for rich colors and a perceptive handling of light and atmosphere. Case also produced exquisitely rendered still lifes of dead game, among them Woodcock (Museum of Fine Arts, Springfield), one of his best-known oils. His oeuvre also includes landscapes and river scenes painted Europe and in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York, as well as figure subjects and the occasional genre scene.
Case exhibited his work at Gill’s Gallery and Johnson’s Gallery in Springfield, as well as at the Springfield Art League. At various times between 1881 and 1892, he also contributed pictures to the annual exhibitions of the National Academy of Design in New York. Case supplemented the income from his painting by providing art instruction to a younger generation of Springfield artists, among them Jonas Joseph LaValley.
Case––whose many artist-friends included the Boston painter, Joseph DeCamp––is said to have been a “man of rare personality, great refinement, loved by all who knew him.” 2 He died at Buscall’s sanitarium in Springfield on November 3rd 1919. In an obituary notice appearing in the Springfield Republican, he was described as “a well-known artist not only in this city but in Western Massachusetts.” 3 An exhibition of his work was held at the Springfield Museum of Fine Arts in 1944, on the centenary of his birth.4 Examples of Case’s work can be found at that institution, as well as at the George Walter Vincent Smith Museum, also in Springfield.
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1. Information courtesy Marshall Price, Assistant Curator, National Academy of Design, New York, February 2007.
2. Georgianna C. James, Highland Park, Ill. to Eleanor A. Wade, [Springfield, Mass.], 14 December 1921, photocopy in the Edmund E. Case file, Spanierman Gallery, LLC.
3. “Obituary: Edmund E. Case,” Springfield Republican, 4 November 1919.
4. The exhibition featured Case’s work, along with that of the aforementioned Bowers.