Woodbury entered MIT in 1882 and took drawing lessons from Ross Sterling Turner. He had already begun to establish himself as a professional painter when, in 1884, he joined the Boston Art Club at the age of seventeen. He graduated from MIT with a degree in engineering, but took a studio on School Street in Boston and began exhibiting paintings and teaching art. He also worked as an illustrator for Harper’s Monthly Magazine and Century Magazine.
In 1890 Woodbury married one of his students, Marcia Oakes, and together they went to Europe where Woodbury studied at the Académie Julian. They spent most of 1891 in Holland and returned there frequently over the next fifteen years. In 1896 they had a son and Woodbury built a studio in Ogunquit, Maine. He eventually established an artists’ colony there as painters flocked to his summer school. Marcia Oakes Woodbury, who had been in frail health since 1909, died in 1913.
Woodbury taught at Wellesley College, and maintained a studio at Grundmann Studios. In addition to the Art Club, he was a member of the Copley Society, the Boston Water Color Club, the Boston Society of Water Color Painters, the Guild of Boston Artists, the Society of American Artists, and in 1907 was elected full member of the National Academy of Design. With good friend Hermann Dudley Murphy he made several trips to Jamaica and St. Thomas. In 1922 his book, Observation: Visual Training through Drawing was published. Through the 1920s and 30s he made repeated trips to islands in the Carribbean.
Woodbury has the distinction of being one of the youngest exhibitors of the Boston Art Club, having exhibited a painting in the inaugural exhibition of the new club house in 1882, at the age of 15. He continued to exhibit watercolors and oils there until 1915.
Earth, Sea and Sky, Charles H. Woodbury (Cambridge: MIT Museum, 1988); BAC; Hirshler; Howlett; WWAA