Honoring Edmund W. Greacen (1897-1972)

Updated: Feb 9

Edmund W. Greacen was an American Impressionist oil painter who created his most prolific works from 1905 to 1935.  Greacen was born in New York City.  His parents, Thomas Edmund Greacen and Isabella Wiggins, immigrated from Scotland to the United States in 1868.  They established a very successful shoe business that afforded them the ability to establish two homes.  One was at 6 West 50 Street which is now the site of Rockefeller Center and another home in Delaware County where the couple and their four children enjoyed their summers.  


Greacen went on to New York University where he achieved a Bachelor of Arts Degree.  His father sent Greacen on a cruise; it was a shoe selling world cruise.  Perhaps to his parents’ surprise, upon his return Greacen enrolled at the Art Students League of New York.  He also studied at the New York School of Art where he studied with William Merritt Chase.  While studying with Chase, Greacen met a woman named Ethol Booth from New Haven, Connecticut.  She  would later become not only his wife but also his muse. 


Edmund and Ethol were married in 1904. In 1905 the couple traveled to Spain with Chase’s class and the Edmund and Ethol went on to study in the Netherlands, Belgium and England.  They had a son named Edmund William, Jr.  Life then took the young family to France  where they rented a home near Claude Monet.  Greacen was extremely taken by Monet’s “Water Lilies” which seems to inform his later work.  While in Giverny, they had their daughter Nan in 1908.  Nan is an artist as well.


The family returned to the States and Greacen established a studio in New York City.  They remained in New York until 1917.  Greacen join the National Arts Club and he started the Manhattan School of Art.  He began exhibiting in NYC galleries.  Greacen also became a member of the Old Lyme Art Colony of American Impressionists at Old Lyme, Connecticut.  During this period Greacen’s technique evolved into his “free brush style” where he depicted landscapes and flower gardens. 


World War I interrupted the young Greacen for just six months.  His art career continued and in 1920 he was elected into the National Academy of Design as an Associate Member after which he became a full Academician in 1935.  In the interim period Greacen had a one-man show at Macbeth Gallery after which he received the Samuel T. Shaw Prize worth $1000 from the Salmagundi Club.  In this same year, Greacen, along with John Singer Sargent and Walter Leighton Clark, established a cooperative called the Association of Painters and Sculptors.  Out of this association grew two more Galleries - Grand Central Art Galleries and the Grand Central School of Art.  Greacen became and remained the director of both for the next 20 years.  He was then elected an Associate Member of the National Academy of Design.  Sadly after his title being raised to Academician of the National Academy, Greacen suffered severel strokes that impaired his life.  He and his wife moved to Florida but they returned to White Plains, NY shortly later. 


We at Allied Artists of America are very proud that Edmund W. Greacen was one of the founders of our prestigious organization.  Greacen left a vast collection of biographical and personal correspondence as well as drawings in the  Archives of American Art.  Included in the archives is his unpublished book “Logic in Drawing” as well as his essay “The Origins of Landscape Painting.”  


Historian- Elaine Clayman