(1839 - 1904)
Maria J. C. a'Becket was active/lived in Massachusetts, New York, Maine / Europe. Maria aBecket is known for landscape, marine and nocturnal scene painting.
Biography from the Archives of askART
Maria a'Becket (1839-1904)
Biography from the Archives of askART
Maria a'Becket was a professional artist, wholly devoted to her work and well regarded by the critics in her lifetime. She was a tiny dynamo of a woman, considered a brilliant conversationalist and was much sought after socially. She was ahead of her time in embracing the Barbizon and Impressionist schools of art and her work found ready buyers. Sadly, she suffered the fate of so many talented professional women of the 19th century: With her death in 1904, her work disappeared, only to begin rediscovery in the late 20th century.
Maria was born in Portland, Maine, the daughter of an apothecary, who moonlighted as a landscape painter. From him, Maria would have received encouragement and early training. Tragically, the Beckett family home and its contents, including the artwork of both father and daughter, were lost in the Great Fire of Portland in 1866. Mr. Beckett died two months later as a result of the conflagration.
At that point, Maria fled to Boston and immersed herself fully in her training as an artist. She was a pupil of William Morris Hunt in the U.S. for a time and studied closely with Claude Daubigny in France, absorbing the characteristics of the Barbizon and Impressionist Schools. She painted landscapes and marine scenes primarily, using loose brushstrokes and heavy impasto. Her use of color was sometimes unconventional.
She exhibited her work at the National Academy of Design in 1883 and 1888, at the Philadelphia Academy of Fine Art from 1880 to 1884, at the Boston Art Club in 1874-76 and 1878-1881 and in private galleries.
Maria was fascinated by the elements of nature and from 1881 to 1888 she spent eight months of the year in a small three-season studio cabin in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia painting the scenery around her. She was accompanied by her companion of 30 years, Bertha Von Hillern, also an artist but one whose work has totally disappeared.
In an 1884 letter preserved in the Smithsonian Archives of American Art, Beckett wrote this about herself:
"Maria J.C. Becket was born in Portland, Maine, where the great fire destroyed their home and caused the death of her father, himself a distinguished amateur. Miss Becket removed at once to Boston and entered upon the study of art to which she has since devoted herself. She has studied with the best masters in this country and in Europe; enjoying the exceptional privilege of going out daily to paint with the great French artist Daubigny in his boat on the River Oise; and living in friendly intimacy with his family. She enjoyed also great advantages for study in Paris, Rome and Germany, and was for several years a pupil of William M. Hunt, Boston's great art light. Miss Becket's favorite subjects are woods and trees."
"There is a peculiar sadness about many of her pictures, where noble, old trees bear the marks of long, hard struggles with the elements; twisted and wind tossed, rugged, gnarled, burying their great muscular roots in the earth or clinging to the rocks. These are what she best likes to paint." 1
Marie established a winter studio in St. Augustine, Florida, part of an art colony fostered by the prominent railroad magnate and developer of resort hotels, Henry Flagler.
In the course of her career, Maria painted en plein aire in France, the White Mountains of New Hampshire, the Shenandoah region of Virginia and in northern Florida. The location of particular works is often difficult to pinpoint, if not identified by the hand of the artist.
(1) Maria J. C. Becket, letter to Charles M. Kurtz, sent from Strasburg,
V.A., July 1884, Smithsonian Archive of American Art, Charles M. Kurtz
Papers 1843-1900. Reel 4805; frames 329-356; July 21-25 1884.
Christopher Volpe, "Maria J.C. a'Becket: Rediscovering an American Artist," Maine History, vol. 45, No. 3, December 2010.
Name: A'Becket, Maria J. C. (Birth Name: Maria Graves Beckett)
Born: July 7, 1839 Portland, Maine
Died: Sept. 6, 1904, New York City
Family Information: Daughter of Charles E. Beckett, a Portland drugstore owner who also painted landscapes; Uncle Samuel E. Beckett, published White Mountain guidebooks; never married; lived with Miss Bertha von Hillern for a number of years.
Studies: Schools and Teachers
Charles Daubigny, William Morris Hunt (mid 1870s) Homer Dodge Martin 1865
Studied in Europe: traveled extensively throughout Europe on at least three separate occasions, visiting England, Paris, Holland, Rome and Germany
Profession: A professional artist
Exhibited: , American Art Galleries, NYC (1883); American Art Union; Baltimore; Boston Art Club (1874-76, 1878-81); Boston Museum of Fine Arts (1881); Haseltine Galleries, Philadelphia (1885); Holbein Gallery, NYC (1893); Knoedler's Gallery, NYC (1902) Lotos Club, NYC, (1899);Maine Charitable Mechanic Exhibition (1860 and 1878); National Academy of Design (1883, 1888); New York Women's Art Club (1890); Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (1880-84); Williams and Everett Fine Art Rooms, Boston (1876 and 1883)
Included in Collections:
Flagler Museum (St. Augustine); Frances S. MacIntyre Collection; Maine Historical Society; Portland Museum of Art; Sellars Collection;
Unlocated: See extensive list in Christopher Volpe's monograph of the artist. Anvers (exhibited Boston Art Club 1880); Christ (for altar of Catholic Church in Deland, FL); the French Broad River, NC; Honfleur (exhibited Boston Art Club 1880); Late Afternoon in October (National Academy of Design 1883)Marine (c. 1878); Moonlight (c.1874); Oaks and Sheep at Port Royal, Va. (MFA Boston 1882); Old Farm in the Shenandoah Valley, An Old Mill, Shenandoah Valley (exhibited Boston Art Club 1881); On the Swannanoa; The Storm or The Storm at Sea (exhibited Union League); Sunrise at Sea (exhibited Woman's Art Club 1894);; Twilight (Pennsylvania Academy 1882); Twilight, Va. (MFA, Boston 1882) Wood Interior (c. 1880); Woods at the White Mountains, aka New Hampshire Woods ( exhibited National Academy of Design, 1888); Woods Near the Glen (c. 1876); Young Housekeeper in Virginia (Pennsylvania Academy 1881) 225 paintings left to the Paulist Fathers auctioned at Clark's Art Rooms in 1911
Born in Portland, Maine in 1839, Maria a'Becket was a landscape painter, primarily a watercolorist, influenced by the French Barbizon School.
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She had early art training with her father, Charles Beckett, a Portland landscape and genre painter who did railroad travel books including ones about the White Mountains. In 1874, John Neal wrote that Charles E. Beckett "has left a daughter with some of the properties he lacked, for she really is a fine colorist and her drawings and paintings are full of promise."
In 1865, she studied with Homer Dodge Martin in New Hampshire, and from 1875 to 1878, with William Morris Hunt in Boston. On a trip to France, she spent a summer painting with Charles Daubigny and was much influenced by the Barbizon painters at Pont Aven. During this time, she changed her name to a'Becket to have a name that was more dramatic.
She also did illustrations for travel guides to the White Mountains, published by her uncle, Samuel E. Beckett.
She exhibited at the Boston Art Club in April 1875, at the National Academy of Design in 1883 and 1888 when she lived in New York City. From 1880 to 1884, she exhibited with the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts but lived in Boston. She also exhibited at the Maine Charitable Mechanic Exhibition of 1860 and 1878 and the New York Women's Art Club in 1890.
The 1884 Massachusetts Charitable Mechanics Association Catalogue of the Department of Fine Arts, 15th Exhibition lists "Sketch of Oaks" ($15). Her other known works include:
The Flume, NH
Woodland Scene owned by Maine Historical Society
Pencil sketches, illustrations for book by her father, Charles E. Beckett
Connecticut River from Stratford, NY pencil sketches
The Flume, New Hampshire owned by Richard Durnin of New Brunswick, NJ
She died in New York City.
Paul Sternberg, Paintings by American Women
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