Source: NEWSLETTER OF THE NORTH MANCHESTER HISTORICAL SOCIETY, INC.
VOLUME IV, NUMBER 1 (February 1987)
ON THE LIFE AND PAINTINGS OF DANIEL GARBER, A NORTH
by Max & Sally Allen
At the 1983 North Manchester Fun Fest Antique Show, Emerson and Evelyn Niswander were approached by a woman from Chicago who asked if they had any paintings by Daniel Garber, since this was his birth place. Mrs. Niswander then asked us if we had ever heard of the artist. Fortunately, Sally did know him because his niece, Mrs. Dorothy Butterbaugh Cordier (Mrs. Andrew) had been her college art instructor. Mrs. Cordier’s mother was Daniel’s older sister. Another brother, Samuel, who lived west of town in the brick home on State Road 114 where Rex Reahard presently resides, is the father of Don Garber, now a resident of Timbercrest.
Considering the fact that few people in North Manchester have any recollection of having a noted artist living here, we thought it advisable to research the details of his contribution to the art world, By getting family addresses from Don Garber, we were able to make close contact with Daniel’s son, John, in Morrisville, Pennsylvania. From him we were able to get more details about Daniel’s work and life. John also furnished us with a number of slides of his father’s paintings.
It was Sally’s good fortune to have met Mr. Garber in 1937 when he returned to the campus of Manchester College. He was here to work on a commission, the portrait of L. D. Ikenberry, which now hangs in the Brethren Reading Room of the college library. At the time of this visit, he graciously consented to speak to Sally’s college art classes.
Daniel, who was named after his father, was born April 11, 1880, of German-Pennsylvania parents. He was the youngest of eleven children. His birthplace was a farm east of North Manchester which is presently owned by Allan Rice. The location is on the east and west road, south of Beery’s Orchard. It is a brown house with a large bank barn. Because of a fall sustained by Daniel, Sr. while working in his barn, the father remained a cripple for life. He eventually decided to give up farm life and moved his family into town. This move was to a home on Singer Road; we believe it was the fifth house across the covered bridge on the southside of the road---a white frame house. It is currently the home of Marie Sievers.
Daniel’s father gave him an outbuilding to use as a studio and John told us that his father painted on the walls of the stalls in that building. We inspected the barn but no paintings were ever found. It is possible that the paint was of inferior quality and after as many years (since 1898) one can understand why there seems to be no evidence of any painting having been done there.
Dan’s early habits influenced his painting since he bore down on his objectives with great persistence. It was probably on the farm that he learned the beliefs which allowed him to sustain a life-long ambition. He definitely knew the meaning of the word “work”. His father was sympathetic to his son’s religious beliefs and allowed him to pursue his artistic training. Even young Daniel was very much surprised when his father allowed him to leave home at the age of 17. It is said that Daniel, Sr. counseled with an Elder in his church who advised him to send his son to art school saying, “If you don’t, you might lose him.” Reports which were written by friends out east said that Daniel always treasured his Dunkard background.
At 17 Daniel graduated from North Manchester High School and enrolled in the Art Academy of Cincinnati. After his first years he was already winning art awards, a practice which continued throughout his lifetime. Although his first award in 1898 was only $25.00, it was of great significance when you realize that $25.00 would buy an acre of land at that time. It would take more than an hour to read of all of the honors, prizes, and awards which were won by the painter during his career to the age of 78. His paintings are on exhibit throughout the most famous museums in the United States and one is hung in the Louvre in Paris, France.
At the Cincinnati Art Academy he was influenced by the Impressionists whose principal quality was to portray the effect of light on the subject. When his hard-working farmer brothers became jealous of him, they would say, “There’s Dan, down in Cincinnati doing them obscene drawings!” Possibly they had had a peek at some of his life class sketches. But they soon grew to be proud of his accomplishments.
Because of an exhibit of paintings by eastern artists, he became interested in the east and decided to go to Philadelphia to enroll in the Academy of Fine Arts. At that time, this academy was the oldest and best school available for artists in the United States. While there, he had two outstanding teachers, William Merritt Chase, an outstanding portrait painter, and Cecelia Beaux, also an outstanding portrait painter, mostly of women and children. They were his teachers in 1900.
For a few months just before entering the Academy, however, he enrolled in the Darby School of Painting which was located near Philadelphia. Nothing remains of his work here, but there was one very significant thing that happened. He met May Franklin who became his wife in 1901. Garber managed to convince May’s father that although he didn’t have much to offer his daughter at the time, he intended to be one of the most outstanding painters in the United States. He wasn’t long in proving this to be true.
Convinced that there wasn’t room in the family for more than one artist, May put aside her career as an illustrator to become the best supporter and effective critic of her husband’s work. He asked her to keep him up to the mark and the family says that she surely did.
In Philadelphia, Dan was employed as a commercial artist for department stores. He also made cover designs for McClure, Scribners, Harper’s Bazaar, and Century magazines. Many artists started their careers in similar ways.
In 1905, at the age of 25, he won an award for European travel and study as an outstanding student of the Academy. For two years, his work resembled the Classic Impressionism of 1870—small paintings done entirely out-of-doors, using short, broken brush strokes and bright, pastel colors. For the first five months in Europe, he worked in England. Then he went for the next six months to Italy, mostly Florence, then to Paris for two years. He was little influenced by the modern trends there and he was not swayed by the life of the city, probably restrained by his Dunkard background. It was here that his daughter, Tannis, was born in 1906.
In 1907 he was invited to come back to Philadelphia to teach at the School of Design for Women. He learned that his father-in-law had recently purchased land in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, and that the property included a house, barn, and an old mill complex. It was located near Lumberville. So he cut his European visit short and returned there to start teaching in the school.
In 1910 his son, John, was born. While his two children were of school age, he spent six months in town and six months in the country. His house in town was a small stone cottage on a canal. Later, he spent all of his time at a rural home near a creek on a dirt road close to the Delaware River. Here, he belonged to what is called the “New Hope Colony of Painters.” After moving to the country, he remodeled a barn into a studio, using timbers of the abandoned mill. The Director of the Academy, while visiting Daniel, said, “He has one of the loveliest homes that I have ever seen here on the Delaware. With his flowers, his love for his farm animals, and his ingenuity in building and remodeling, he has created an environment that has become a part of him.” In 1929 Dan wrote to his cousin, Charles, “To know me now you would have to know the place. Everyone knows that it is half of me.”
Daniel died in Lumberville in 1958. His final entry in his painting record book was in 1955. He was not only a painter, he was also a sculptor, wood craftsman, etcher, illustrator, and carpenter. In 1980 the Philadelphia Art Museum featured a Garber one-man show. A catalogue from that exhibition is available at the Manchester College Library.