When looking at the history of art, which in may ways reflects social history, I can’t help but think about how many potentially terrific artists we’ve been denied because women were discouraged or actively prohibited from being artists.
Anna Richards Brewster was active at the turn of the 20th Century, a time when it was acceptable for women to study art, particularly upper-class women who were becoming “cultured”; but that cultural training was meant to make them better wives, not prepare them for an active career. Women artists often had difficulty being accepted in exhibitions, were frequently left out of consideration for prizes or reviews and generally treated as “not serious” as contributors to the art world.
There were notable exceptions, like Cecilia Beaux, but even they were often not given the same appraisal they would have met had they been male. Despite the advances in this area in the last century, I think this is still the case to a degree, and women artists are often pushed down a bit in the regard of art historians and the art establishment in general (a “varnish ceiling”?).
Anna Richards Brewster was an accomplished painter who, among her several stylistic variations, is primarily thought of as an American Impressionist, though she is seldom mentioned in the books and articles you encounter on the subject. She was successful in her time, however, and received recognition during her career, winning the noted Dodge Prize from the National Academy of Design at the age of 20 (for best picture by a woman artist), and showing her work throughout her life, up until the 1930’s.
Brewster started early. She was the daughter of renowned landscape and seascape painter William Trost Richards, and began painting at the age of 10. In addition to the influence of her father, she studied with William Merritt Chase and John Lefarge, and was trained at the Académie Juilan in Paris.
Brewster experimented with many styles, from the influence of her father’s friends among the Pre-Raphaelite painters, flashes of Turner, bits of Barbizon, even traces of Hopper, to the interesting series of Alice in Wonderland illustrations she did in the style of John Tenniel.
But it is indeed her impressionist style paintings that stand out, lumionus, rich with atmosphere and texture, in which you can see the influence of Childe Hassam, and, of course, William Merritt Chase.
Online resources about Brewster are somewhat slim, but there is now a dedicated site about Anna Richards Brewster, in conjunction with a traveling exhibit called Anna Richards Brewster: American Impressionist, organized by the Fresno Metropolitan Museum of Art and Science.
There is a beautiful book accompanying the exhibit, Anna Richards Brewster: American Impressionist (more detail here).
The exhibition site is arranged a bit awkwardly, and you have to poke around a bit to find all of the 57 images on view, some in “Artwork“, most in the several pages of the “Checklist” section.
The exhibition is currently at the Hudson River Museum, in Yonkers, NY, until September 7, 2008. It then travels to the Butler Institute of American Art in Youngstown, Ohio from September 27 – December 28, 2008, and finally to the Fresno Metropolitan Museum from March 28 – June 14, 2009.
One of the stated goals of the exhibition’s organizers is to re-establish Brewster’s place in the history of American art, something that should well be done for a number of women artists.
[Link via Art Knowledge News]