Edmund C. Tarbell was born in West Groton, Massachusetts, in 1862. During his youth, he attended drawing classes at the Massachusetts Normal Art School.
Tarbell traveled to France in 1879, joining his friend and fellow Bostonian, Frank Benson. There he continued to develop his artistic skills and received his initial exposure to Impressionism. After traveling to Italy and Germany, he returned to Boston in 1886.
Tarbell retired to his summer home in New Castle, New Hampshire, in 1925, where he remained active as a painter until his death in 1938.