Artist and art collector Edward Bruce was born in Dover Plains, N.Y. and began painting landscapes at the age of fourteen. Although he continued to paint throughout his life, Bruce did not become a professional artist until he entered a rigorous six-year apprenticeship in Italy at the age of forty. Before his formal art training, Bruce had a successful law practice, specializing in international trade law in New York and Manila, in the Philippines. While in the Far East, Bruce collected dozens of Chinese landscape paintings that today form the core of the Asian collection at Harvard University’s Fogg Art Museum.
Returning to the United States in 1925, Bruce worked at his art without interruption and won national recognition in a surprisingly short time. In 1938 Harvard University conferred upon him an honorary Doctor of Arts degree and in 1940 President Roosevelt appointed Bruce to the President’s Commission of Fine Arts.
The son of a minister, Bruce brought spiritual fervor to his landscapes—shafts of golden light break through dark clouds to creating a radiant aura. Bruce’s knowledge of the traditions of Chinese landscape painting is also evident, in his harmoniously composed landscapes, simplified forms, and atmospheric perspective.
As an artist-collector of broad intellectual interests, Bruce admired Duncan Phillips. In a letter to collector and art dealer Leo Stein, Bruce wrote of Phillips, “He does not go in search of show works, he is not misled by names, he does not feel the need to fill gaps, his collection is to typical collections like the intimacy of family compares with public speech
. He collects art as an artist would.”