Ralph Smalley Tebbutt was a well known Sandusky area artist. Born in England on May 14, 1849, he immigrated to Sandusky with his parents when he was five years old.
For sixty years he ran a painting and decorating business. For a time, was in business with another local artist, John Holland, but they dissolved their partnership in January, 1895. We know that in 1870, Tebbutt kept a studio in the Reber Block in downtown Sandusky.
Ralph Tebbutt lent his talents to local efforts. During the first World War, painted signs and banners for the Red Cross. In 1920, he painted two scenes for a pageant that was put on by local school children. One was a scene of the Santa Maria, and the other was for a sketch about Francis Scott Key.
Tebbutt enjoyed painting religious scenes, and several were given to area churches. Tebbutt used many mediums, including oil, pastel, charcoal and watercolor. He painted portraits, landscapes, religious themes, marine paintings, manufacturing plants, ships and animals.
An article appeared in the Register after his death detailing a quartet of four drinking scenes painted for a forgotten local brewery. The article described the paintings as “remarkably free in execution, that is they are natural and look as if they just flowed from the painter’s brush. The lights and shades, shadows and expression are handled with all the skill of a master painter.” No one knows what became of these paintings.
He painted for the love of the work, apparently never attempting to sell his work, although if offered a price and it suited him, he would sell and did sell many of his paintings. According to his son, Tebbutt painted constantly until his death. At the time of his death, art critics were saying that Tebbutt had many earmarks of a genius.
Ralph Smalley Tebbutt died March 4, 1930 at the age of 81. He is buried in a family plot in Oakland Cemetery.