A resident of Brunswick, Maine, Washburn was a well-known painter, etcher and writer. Despite having become deaf after an episode of scarlet fever at the age of 5, Washburn went on to study architecture at MIT before turning to a career as an artist. He studied at the Art Students League and with renowned Impressionists William Merritt Chase before traveling to Spain to study with Joaquin Sorolla. Washburn learned the art of etching in 1903, and became a war correspondent for the Chicago Daily News during the Russian-Japanese War of 1904-05 and the Madera Revolution in Mexico in 1910-1912.
Washburn exhibited at the Paris Salon from 1896 to 1904 and gained membership in the National Academy of Design and the American Federation of the Arts. Washburn’s works are held in the collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Biblioteque Nationale in Paris, the Luxembourg Museum, the British Museum, London, the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, and the Bowdoin College Museum of Art, Brunswick, Maine.