Fidelia Bridges

She Painted the Art in Nature

Fidelia Bridges was one of the most renowned artists of her time and one of the very few women artists who supported herself with her work. She was known for her delicately detailed nature paintings, which were published in books and magazines. Her paintings convey the joy she felt in birds and flowers.

Image: Fidelia Bridges
Dressed for a painting excursion c. 1864
She wore black in the winter, gray linen in the summer.
Note the shorter dress with pants underneath. This style of dress is called the Bloomer costume, named for its designer, feminist Amelia Bloomer.

Early Years
Fidelia Bridges was born May 19, 1834, the daughter of sea captain Henry Gardiner Bridges and Eliza Chadwick Bridges. The family lived at 100 Essex Street in Salem, Massachusetts, now known as the Fidelia Bridges Guest House. When Fidelia was 15, her father died while overseas. News traveled slowly in those days and knowledge of his death reached his family three hours after the death of their mother.

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First American Women Painters II

Women Pioneers in the Art of Painting

In the nineteenth century, women artists signed their work with a first initial and last name to conceal their gender. They did not make significant progress until the second half of the 19th century, but they gradually became a force on the American art scene, winning prestigious commissions and awards.

Image: Rocky River Landscape (1881)
By Julie Hart Beers

Julie Hart Beers

(1835–1913)
Julie Hart Beers, a painter in the style of the Hudson River School, was one of very few professional women landscape painters in nineteenth-century America and the only one to achieve fame. Beers took her first art lessons from her two older brothers, James and William, who were already well-known artists. James had studied art in Europe, primarily Germany, and William had studied for several years in Great Britain.

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Eliza Greatorex

Painter, Illustrator and Pen and Ink Artist

Eliza Greatorex was a noted painter of landscapes and cityscapes; she was especially known for her pen and ink drawings of New York and European scenes. She was the first woman elected to the National Academy of Design, one of America’s first women illustrators, and one of the earliest women artists to reproduce scenes of Colorado in pen and ink drawings.

Image: Portrait of Eliza Pratt Greatorex
By Ferdinand Thomas Lee Boyle (1869)
Credit: National Academy of Design, New York

Early Years
Eliza Pratt was born December 25, 1819 in Manorhamilton, Ireland, and she emigrated to New York City with her family in 1840. In 1849 she married Henry Wellington Greatorex, a composer of hymns such as “Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow.” They had two daughters, Eleanor and Kathleen, and a son Thomas, who died in Colorado in 1881 at about the age of thirty. The Greatorexes traveled throughout North America and Europe while Henry performed in concerts.

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Maria Martin Bachman

She Painted Backgrounds for Audubon’s Famous Birds

Maria Martin Bachman was one of the most influential woman in natural history in the nineteenth century. She is best known as a skilled illustrator of flora and fauna who worked in collaboration with the famed naturalist and artist John James Audubon.

Early Years
Maria (pronounced ma-RY-ah) Martin, the youngest of two daughters, was born July 6, 1796 to Rebecca Solars and John Jacob Martin. The widow Rebecca Solar’s dower provided generously for the family they would have together, and Martin nurtured it into a fortune. Records of Maria’s childhood years were destroyed by General William Tecumseh Sherman‘s March to the Sea in 1864 during the Civil War.

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First American Women Painters

First Professional Women in Art

In the nineteenth century, women artists signed their work with a first initial and last name to conceal their gender. Not until the second half of the 19th century did women artists make significant progress. In the United States, women gradually became a force on the American art scene, winning prestigious commissions and awards.

Image: Kaaterskill Clove by Harriet Cany Peale
This deep gorge in New York’s Catskill Mountains inspired the Hudson River School of Art, our nation’s first artistic style.

Harriet Cany Peale

Harriet Cany Peale (1800-1869) was born in Philadelphia, where she studied with well-known portrait and historical genre painter, Rembrandt Peale (1778-1860). In 1840 she married Peale and exhibited for the first time at the Artists’ Fund Society that same year. Unlike most women artists of the time, she continued to paint and exhibit portraits and still lifes after she married Peale. They had no children.

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Mary Blood Mellen

19th Century Landscape and Marine Artist

Image: Taking in the Sails
By Mary Blood Mellen

In recent years, Mary Blood Mellen has emerged as one of the most talented women artists in the years immediately preceding the Civil War. She was an American landscape and marine artist who collaborated with her mentor, American Luminist master Fitz Henry Lane. Mellen was one of the few women painters associated with the Hudson River School – a group of artists working in nineteenth-century New England. She is known for her renderings of nostalgic landscapes and seascapes in the Gloucester, Massachusetts area.

Early Life
While information about her life is always somewhat sketchy, Mary Blood Mellen was likely born in 1817 in Sterling, Massachusetts, where she attended a girl’s academy and studied painting. Mary showed an early interest and aptitude in art and learned to paint with watercolors at boarding school. In 1840, she married the Reverend Charles Mellen, and the couple lived in Gloucester, Massachusetts. Mellen was a Universalist minister at several Massachusetts churches during his career.

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Anne Whitney

19th Century Sculptor and Poet

Anne Whitney was a poet and sculptor who fought to become an artist in a society that did not readily accept female sculptors; sculpture was considered a masculine art form. As with so many of the first 19th century women sculptors, Whitney was a member of a wealthy and supportive family, who helped her financially while she developed her natural talents.

Image: Anne Whitney (seated)
With partner and painter Abby Adeline Manning

Early Years
Anne Whitney was born September 2, 1821 in Watertown, Massachusetts; she was the daughter of well- to-do farmer Nathaniel Whitney and his wife Sarah Stone Whitney. Her supportive and liberal parents encouraged Anne to develop her artistic talents.

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Emma Stebbins

One of the First American Women Sculptors

Emma Stebbins was among the first notable American women sculptors and part of a group of who learned to work in marble in Rome in the mid-1800s. She produced her most famous works between 1859 and 1869, when she was in her forties and early fifties.

Early Years
Stebbins was born September 1, 1815 to a wealthy family in New York City, daughter of nine children of a bank president. Emma’s family encouraged her to pursue her talents in art from an early age. Stebbins studied at several American studios and exhibited at the National Academy of Design and other shows.

Amateur Artist
By her twenties, she was a diligent and dedicated worker whose skill and perseverance were remarked upon by contemporaries. For many years Stebbins devoted herself to painting in oils and watercolors, working also in crayon and pastels, and later sculpture.

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Sarah Miriam Peale

First Professional American Woman Artist

Sarah Miriam Peale is America’s first truly professional female artist. She had a career of nearly sixty years during which she lived on her own and supported herself with her art. Considered the leading portrait painter in Baltimore and St. Louis during the 19th century, she successfully competed with male painters of that time

Image: Self-portrait of the artist, 1818
National Portrait Gallery
Washington, DC

Early Years
Sarah Miriam Peale, born May 19, 1800 in Philadelphia, was descended from the Peales, a great family of American painters. She was the youngest daughter born to famous early American artist James Peale and Mary Claypoole Peale. Her father trained her; she served as his studio assistant. Like her older sisters, Anna and Margaretta, Sarah learned to mix paints, prepare canvases, and delineate backgrounds.

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Anna Claypoole Peale

Women in Art: Early 19th Century Portrait Artist

Image: Anna Claypoole Peale, 1812
Painted by her father James Peale

Anna Claypoole Peale (1791–1878) was an American painter, specializing in portrait miniatures and still lifes. She was most famous for her strong characterizations of famous men. Peale was among the country’s first professional women artists, and pursued a career that propelled her into the public realm and beyond the typical domestic confines of women’s lives in the 19th century.

Early Years
Anna Claypoole Peale was born March 6, 1791 into an artistic family in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She was one of six children (all but one of them girls) of Mary Chambers Claypoole and painter James Peale, and the niece of Charles Willson Peale, a well-known portrait painter.

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