Edward Henry Potthast was born in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1857. At twelve years old, he studied at Cincinnati’s new McMicken School of Design. He showed a natural artistic talent. At sixteen, he had an apprenticeship with a lithographic firm in Cincinnati. In 1879, he began to study with Thomas Satterwhite Noble, a portrait and figure painter, who employed a dark palette and a rich, painterly technique. He later studied at the Royal Academy in Munich. Edward Potthast then studied for briefly at the Académie Julian in Paris.
In 1885, Edward Potthast returned to Cincinnati and resumed his training with Thomas Noble. His paintings of the time were heavily influenced by the Munich School with dark tones. Potthast’s subjects included interiors and landscapes. The following year, he returned to Paris, to continue his studies and was first influenced by the Impressionist artists working at the Grez colony. When he returned to America, his work was very much impressionistic in style. In 1894, he was the only American to be included in the exhibition entitled “Light Pictures” at the Cincinnati Art Museum. In 1895, he moved to New York, where he would live and work for the rest of his life. Having supported himself as a lithographer up until now, at age thirty-nine, he was finally able to focus on his fine art career after the Cincinnati Museum of Art purchased a painting.
His watercolors and oil paintings were shown at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1896 and at the National Academy of Design in 1897. Edward Potthast won the academy’s Thomas B. Clarke prize for best figure painting in 1899, the same year was he was elected an associate of the academy.
By 1908 he occupied a studio in the Gainsborough Building overlooking Central Park. The park and the beaches of New York and New England were where he found inspiration for his work. He would become most known for his happy scenes of people playing on the beach or friends picnicking in the park. His scenes were always depicting a sunny day and people at leisure. Potthast was made a full academician of National Academy of Design in 1906.
He exhibited frequently at the National Academy of Design, the Society of American Artists and the Salmagundi Club and won many awards. In 1927, Edward Potthast died of a heart attack in his studio at the age of 70. His work is included in many major museums including the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Brooklyn Museum of Art, New York; Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown, Ohio; Art Institute of Chicago; Cincinnati Art Museum; Georgia Museum of Art, Athens and Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.