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 Sarah E. Choate Sears  (1858 - 1935)

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Lived/Active: Massachusetts/California/Maine      Known for: floral studies, portrait, photography

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Ad Code: 3
Sarah Choate Sears
from Auction House Records.
Helen-A Portrait Sketch
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
An award-winning watercolor and pastel painter, Sarah Choate Sears grew up in Cambridge, Massachusetts in a prominent family. Her father was an attorney and president of the Old Colony railroad line that linked Boston to its suburbs to the south. She was educated at home, and like many proper young ladies, learned floral watercolor painting with the expectation that it would be a private leisure activity.

In 1877, she married Joshua Montgomery Sears, a man of very wealthy inheritance whose affluence allowed her to pursue her painting extensively. Sarah studied with Ross Sterling Turner, a Boston impressionist, and first exhibited her work in an 1884 show at his studio. She then studied at the Cowles Art School in Boston with Dennis Miller Bunker and through him met other painters with whom she studied including Abbot Thayer, Edmund Tarbell, and John Singer Sargent, who painted her portrait in 1899.

By 1890, she was getting serious recognition for her figure works in watercolor, and in 1893, won the William T Evans prize at the New York Water Color Club. She became interested in photography, and, committed to the artistic potential of that medium, created elegant still lifes and portrait photographs, and from the time of the birth of her daughter, took photographs of her. She never, however, had formal training in photography.

She helped found the Society of Arts and Crafts in Boston, and in 1897, saw to it that photography was a part of the show. In 1899, Sarah had a solo exhibition at the Boston Camera Club, and in 1900, her photos were part of the exhibition of the Royal Photographic Society in London.

Her career flourished until 1905, when her husband died and she tended him during a long illness and then managed his huge estate after his death. She went to Paris, where she became exposed to contemporary art and became a close friend of Mary Cassatt and collector of her paintings. Sears introduced Cassatt to Gertrude Stein in 1908, and Cassatt was aghast at Stein's modern art collection. Cassatt gave Sears some of her pastels, and this renewed Sears' creative urges, this time in a different medium.

But Sears remained committed to avant-garde art, sponsoring many young artists including the young Maurice Prendergast, whose first trip to Italy in 1898 she paid for. One of her last exhibitions during her lifetime was at Wellesley College in 1925, where she was praised for being an inspiration to young women.

Source: The Magazine Antiques, September 2001

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in Cambridge, MA on May 5, 1858. Sarah was the wife of Joshua Sears. While based in Boston, she studied under Tarbell and made painting trips to Santa Barbara. She died in West Gouldsboro, ME on Sept. 26, 1935. Her work includes Native American genre, still lifes, and portraits. Exh: World's Columbian Expo (Chicago), 1893 (medal); Paris Expo, 1900 (prize); Pan-American Expo (Buffalo), 1901 (medal); Charleston Expo, 1902 (medal); Copley Society (Boston), 1902; Louisiana Purchase Expo (St Louis), 1904 (medal).
Edan Hughes, "Artists in California, 1786-1940"
American Art Annual 1933; Women Artists of the American West; Boston Evening Transcript, 9-27-1935 and NY Times, 9-28-1935 (obits).
Nearly 20,000 biographies can be found in Artists in California 1786-1940 by Edan Hughes and is available for sale ($150). For a full book description and order information please click here.

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Sarah Sears is also mentioned in these AskART essays:
San Francisco Panama-Pacific Exhibition 1915

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