1858 (Salem, New Jersey)
1932 (Moylan, Pennsylvania)
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|This biography from the Archives of AskART:|
Barber was born on a farm near Salem, New Jersey, where she attended
local schools. The family moved to Philadelphia, and by 1873 she was a
full time student at the Philadelphia School of Design for Women (now
Moore College of Art). There she became proficient at engraving, an
important skill in the days before photo-mechanical reproduction. In
1876, she enrolled at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, where
she studied under Thomas Eakins. Among her classmates was Emily
Sartain. Financial considerations finally forced Barber to turn to
full-time engraving, but by 1885, the long hours and close work
affected her health. She turned to pen and ink drawing, and was soon
supporting herself by illustration in that medium. |
trip to Europe she took up painting in oils. When she returned, she
supported herself with pen and ink illustration and painted for
relaxation. In 1890 she married another fellow Academy student, Charles
Hallowell Stephens, who, by this time, was a teacher at the Academy. She
continued to work as an illustrator, now in color and with a softer
effect produced by paint instead of pen and ink. Her talents were
equally effective in the domestic genre stories then popular in
magazines, and with more dramatic illustrations for works by Conan
With Emily Sartain, Alice Barber Stephens was one of
the founders of The Plastic Club in 1897. She served as vice president
every year from 1897 through 1912. She was also active in the
establishment of the Fellowship of the Academy of Fine Arts, and served
on the Board for several years. Her career spanned fifty years, during
which time she earned the respect of her fellow artists, male and
female. She was active in lecturing and teaching, and in demand as a
judge of art and photography. There were numerous exhibitions of her
work during her lifetime. I n 1984, more than 50 years after her death,
the Brandywine River Museum held an exhibition of her work.
submitted as to AskART as a bulletin, December 2004, by Sue Baldwin.
|This biography from the Archives of AskART:|
|Born in Salem, New Jersey, Alice Barber Stephens is noted for numerous
engravings, quite often of social events, that appeared in magazines
such as Scribner's Monthly and Harper's Weekly. |
such early art talent that her parents allowed her to miss one day of
school to take formal study at the Philadelphia School of Design for
Women. In 1876 she enrolled at the Pennsylvania School of Fine Arts in
the first class that admitted women, which was taught by Thomas Eakins.
She was part of the group of women who petitioned for nude drawing
classes for women and also was a founder of the Plastic Club in
Philadelphia to fight prejudice against women artists.
supported herself as an engraver and illustrator and spent most of the
year in 1887 in Europe studying in museums. She enrolled in the Paris
at the Academie Julian where she studied with Filippo Colarrossi.
Returning to the United States, she married artist, Charles Stephens,
and they had one son.
Charlotte Rubinstein, American Women Artists
|Biography from Charleston Renaissance Gallery:|
|ALICE BARBER STEPHENS (1858-1932)|
One of the best-known illustrators of her generation, Alice Barber Stephens grew up in Philadelphia, and received her initial art instruction at the Philadelphia School of Design for Women (now Moore College of Art). While still in her teens, she mastered the mechanical processes involved in printing, and began supporting herself by selling wood engravings to Scribner’s Monthly and other periodicals.
Although encouraged by her parents to become a full-time engraver, Stephens “wanted to work in color” (Brown, p. 8). In 1876 she transferred to the Philadelphia Academy of the Fine Arts, and entered the classroom of Thomas Eakins, who was then beginning his controversial first year at the school. Under his tutelage, she turned to illustration, and her works in charcoal, oil, watercolor, and other media became regular features in Century, Cosmopolitan, Frank Leslie’s Weekly, and the Harper publications. His influence on Stephens was so strong that years later Gordon Hendricks observed: “some of … [her] work “is scarcely distinguishable from that of Eakins” (quoted in Brown, 13).
Stephens’ painting, Female Life Class (1879; Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts) was one of the earliest portrayals of women artists working from the nude. Commissioned by the Academy, Female Life Class brought positive attention to the artist and the institution when it was reproduced in Scribner’s in 1879. In the late 1880s, Stephens studied briefly at the Academie Julien in Paris and sketched in the Italian countryside. During her stay, she adopted a lighter palette, and a softer, more impressionist style. She painted several richly colored landscapes of Italy, and exhibited at the Paris Salon.
On her return to Philadelphia, she married Charles Stephens, an instructor at the Academy, and began a successful career as a book illustrator. In addition to creating the illustrations for works by Louisa May Alcott, Bret Harte, and Arthur Conan Doyle, Stephens provided the images for a special edition of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Marble Faun, a favorite travel guide to Rome for Victorian tourists. They were considered the finest book illustrations she ever produced, and the original paintings won a bronze medal at the 1900 Paris Exposition Universelle.
Stephens’ interest in architecture is revealed in other works of the early twentieth century, such as Morning on a Southern Plantation, painted in 1912. By that year, the Stephens’s had moved to Rose Valley, an Arts and Crafts community within commuting distance of Philadelphia, where most of the residents worked. The move was prompted by their friendship with its founder, the architect William Price, who converted a stone barn into a house and studios for them. There, in addition to her commercial work, Stephens painted figurative works and landscapes, often incorporating architectural motifs into her scenes.
Nancy Rivard Shaw
This essay is copyrighted by the Charleston Renaissance Gallery and may not be reproduced or transmitted without written permission from Hicklin Galleries, LLC.
|Biography from AV Fine Arts:|
|Alice Barber Stephens American Artist (1858-1932). Illustrator, Painter, Teacher, Photographer, and Engraver.|
Alice Barber Stephens studied with T. Eakins, J. Dalziel, Philadelphia School of Design for Women, Academie Julian, and Academie Colarossi, Paris. She was the founder of the Plastic Club in 1897.
She was the illustrator for the works of Louisa May Alcott, Lucy Lillie, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Kate Douglas Wiggins, and Nathaniel Hawthorne. She also worked for Harper's, Century, Scribner's, and Collier's.
She scandalized, caused somewhat of a furor among educators, by establishing the First Life-Drawing Class for Women at the Philadelphia School of Design for Women (Falk, WWW)
16 annuals at PAFA (awarded 1890 Mary Smith Prize); NAD, 1884;
Paris Salon, 1887;
Universal Exposition Paris, 1890 (Bronze Medal);
Exposition of Women's Work, Earl's Court, London, 1899 (Gold Medal, for her Illustration of Elliot's Middlemarch)
Library of Congress,
Philadelphia Historical Society
|** If you discover credit omissions or have additional information to add, please let us know at registrar@AskART.com.|