Garber was born on April 11, 1880 in North Manchester, Indiana. Immediately after high school, he left his home state to attend the Art Academy of Cincinnati where he studied from 1897 to 1899 with two artists trained in the Munich school of late nineteenth-century realism. Later at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, where he trained from 1900-1905, Garber’s primary mentor was Thomas Anshutz. Anshutz continued the traditions of American realist Thomas Eakins and is sometimes best remembered as the teacher of many of the artists of the Ashcan School of urban realism.
Anshutz encouraged his students, including Garber, to seek their own artistic direction. Garber’s earlier work reflects the influence of his teacher by utilizing a darker palette and traditional composition devices. He eventually departed from the Ashcan School and began exploring realism in the country, depicting the rural landscape. Around this time, he also began to develop a decorative formal style.
In the tradition of many American artists, Garber traveled overseas to paint in England, France, and Italy on a fellowship from the Pennsylvania Academy. Returning to America in 1907, he settled at Cuttalossa near Lumberville, Pennsylvania, six miles up the Delaware River from New Hope. Garber would become a leader of the New Hope School, also known as the Pennsylvania School of Landscape Painters. Artists painting in this area during this time were strongly influenced by the location of Bucks County, Pennsylvania.
Garber and other artist’s contributions to the area were noted in Dubois’ 1915 article, when the critic observed that the New Hope artists had created a new and distinctly American style by adapting the technique of the French Impressionists. Garber’s adaptation was to employ the brushstroke techniques of French Impressionists, but creating highly stylized and flattened compositions. This was a reflection of his training and experience and an approach being explored by emerging abstract artists.
From 1911-1917, he created a series of large-scale landscapes on the theme of the trees that lined the river banks. Garber painted landscapes en plein air, directly from nature. He exhibited his works nationwide and earned numerous awards, including a gold medal at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition (1915) in San Francisco, California. He was elected a member of the National Academy of Design in 1913. The Cincinnati Art Museum acquired one of his landscapes in 1920. Daniel Garber is best known for his landscapes, which often depict representational imagery in a strong color palette favoring blues, greens, and yellows. After the Depression, around 1930, he began depicting people in his work. This more narrative focus is one of the most significant changes to occur in Garber’s work after 1930.
Around the same time, Daniel Garber’s art began to feel the changes of the time as museums that had supported and acquired his works began to re-evaluate their collections of twentieth century art. He continued to paint until nearly the end of his life. He submitted over 2,500 works to over 750 exhibitions throughout his career. He also helped influence many future generations of painters during his forty years as a teacher at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. Garber died on July 5, 1958, after falling from a ladder at his studio.
Today, Garber’s paintings are considered by collectors and art historians to be among the finest works produced from the New Hope art colony. His paintings are owned by major museums including the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, DC, and the Art Institute of Chicago.