Although Eugene Ullman was influenced by the French impressionist movement and experimented with impressionism, he is considered a representational portrait, figure and landscape painter from the American school.
Ullman was born March 27, 1877 in New York City to German immigrants, Sigmund and Pauline Ullman, who also had a daughter and three other sons’. As a child, Paul Ullman exhibited an early interest and talent with his drawings of horses, ships, and horse-drawn carriages. It was local artist and regional painter, Walter Griffin, who recognized and fostered his early talent, as did his own mother.
Ullman attended Columbia University Grammar School, where he excelled in Latin and German. He then spent a year at the Packard Business School to please his father. However, it became apparent that his heart was into art and not business. With encouragement from his mother, Ullman’s father consented and enrolled him at the William Merritt Chase School of Art; where he became a teacher, and later he was offered the directorship, which he declined upon Chase’s resignation.
Anticipating a promising career, Ullman’s parents provided him a generous allowance which enabled him to continue his studies with Chase at his Shinnecock Summer School on Long Island and to accompany him to study and paint in Europe.
Shortly after the Spanish-American war and prior to their trip to Europe, Chase gave him an introduction to John Singer Sargent, and he also briefly attended James Whistler's atelier but left after a week because he found Whistler's method "too dark."
Chase and Ullman traveled the continent. In Spain, he copied works by Velázquez and would be introduced to the works of El Greco for the first time. They traveled to Munich and Holland to study the old masters. It was in Holland that Ullman discovered that its citizens had less respect for living artist than the Masters of their glorious past. During their stay in Paris, Ullman completed a full-length portrait of Chase that was purchased by the French government for the Musée de Luxembourg. It shows the artist with a cane, wearing pince-nez, spats, gloves and a top hat.
Although Chase would return to the United States, Ullman would spend most of his career in France as an expatriate much longer than most of his artist peers, only returning to the United States during World War II. During World War I, he worked to aid French artists caught in occupied territories, often sending them money. He also returned briefly to the United States and took preliminary training so he could become an ambulance driver.
In France, Ullman associated with prominent literary figures including Gertrude Stein, whose introduction was made by Alfred Maurer, Booth Tarkington, and Arnold Bennett. He also exhibited widely in American including the National Academy of Design, the Art Institute of Chicago and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.
Ullman’s reputation grew steadily before World War I, and a critic for "The World Magazine" wrote: 'Eugene Paul Ullman has a field practically to himself among the Americans. . . they do not fail to attract attention for they show the painter to be a master of technique and an exquisite colorist."
He married twice, the first wife being novelist Alice Wood, one of his students, and they had two sons, Allen and Paul. Allen became a sculptor and painter, and Paul a painter-illustrator. The couple divorced in 1923, and Ullman married Suzanne Lioni in 1927. They had a son, Pierre in 1929.
During the 1940s, Ullman and his family lived in Westport, Connecticut, but they returned to France in 1949. Suzanne died in 1950, and the artist remained there until his death on April 20, 1953 at the age of 76.
Pierre Ullman, son of the artist, has written an article about Eugene Ullman. The title is "Eugene Paul Ullman and the Paris Expatriates," and it was published in "Papers on Language and Literature" (Winter 1984, pp. 99).
Bronze Medal, St. Louis Exposition, 1904. Second Prize, Worcester Art Museum, 1905. First Class Medal, Orlans (1905). Temple Gold Medal, 1906.
Silver Medal, Panama Canal Exposition, San Francisco (1915). E. P. Ullman also received the honor of associate membership in the Société des Beaux-Arts, unusual for a foreigner. Nevertheless, he later resigned in protest of their policy toward the avant-garde artists of the younger
generation. Who Was Who in American Art (1999) states that EPU won a medal at the St. Louis World's Fair in 1924.