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 Fidelia Bridges  (1834 - 1923)

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Lived/Active: New York/Connecticut/Massachusetts      Known for: bird and floral studies, holiday card designer

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Fidelia Bridges
An example of work by Fidelia Bridges
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in Salem, Massachusetts, Fidelia Bridges became a specialist in detailed watercolor studies of plants and flowers and birds in their natural surroundings. This was a time when watercolor became increasingly respected. She was a follower of the Pre-Raphaelite* movement in art, the close-focus, detailed, small scale watercolor technique espoused by John Ruskin.

Of her painting of this period, landscapist John Kensett wrote in Art Journal: 'Her works are like little lyric poems, and she dwells with loving touches on each of her birds like blossoms atilt among the leaves'. (Rubinstein 62).

However, later in her career, her style became somewhat looser in that the backgrounds were less defined.

She was also an illustrator, a part of her career that began in 1876 when she sold her first watercolors to publisher and chromolithographer* Louis Prang. For Prang, with whom she worked from 1881 to 1899, she designed greeting cards and illustrated calendars and books including in 1886, Familiar Birds and What Poets Sing of Them.

Bridges was the child of parents who, living in China, died when she was young. She became a mother's helper in a Quaker household in Brooklyn, New York, and then was a student of William Trost Richrads at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts*. He encouraged her highly realistic style of recording nature with botanical accuracy and once she got her own studio, he promoted her among his wealthy friends. She became a close friend to the Richards family.

Generally Fidelia had a quiet, independent life focused on the serenity of nature. Much of her early career was in New York City, but her primary residence was Salem, Massachusetts until 1892, when she moved to Canaan, Connecticut and lived there the remainder of her life.

In 1874, Bridges was elected an associate of the National Academy of Design*, and in 1875, became a member of the National Water Color Society*. She exhibited extensively including at the 1876 Philadelphia Exposition*, the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition* in St. Louis, in nine exhibitions at the Pennsylvania Academy, and twenty-six annual exhibitions of the National Academy of Design*.

Bridges was also a good friend of sculptor, Anne Whitney, who strongly influenced Bridges to become an independent woman. In 1867, Whitney and Bridges went to Italy together, and then Bridges traveled alone, which gave her ongoing feelings of self reliance.

As an older woman in Canaan, she was described as a "village personality . . . in a circle of literary and artistic maiden ladies, riding her bicycle to sketching excursions or to 'woodland picnics and afternoon teas" (Rubinstein 62). After she died on May 14, 1923, a small bird sanctuary was erected by the townspeople in her memory.

Sources:
Charlotte Rubinstein, American Women Artists
Paul Sternberg, Sr., Art by American Women

•    * For more in-depth information about terms marked with an asterisk in this biography and others, see AskART.com Glossary at http://www.askart.com/AskART/lists/Art_Definition.aspx


** If you discover credit omissions or have additional information to add, please let us know at registrar@AskART.com.


Fidelia Bridges is also mentioned in these AskART essays:
Illustrators
Women Artists

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