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Alice Stephens

 (1858 - 1932)
Alice Barber Stephens was active/lived in Pennsylvania, New Jersey.  Alice Stephens is known for portrait and landscape painting, illustration, engraving.

Alice Stephens

Biography from the Archives of askART

Biography photo for Alice Stephens
Alice 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.

During a 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 Doyle.

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.

Information submitted as to AskART as a bulletin, December 2004, by Sue Baldwin.

Biography from the Archives of askART
Biography photo for Alice Stephens
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.

She showed 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.

She 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

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
Biography photo for Alice Stephens
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)

Permanent Collections:
Library of Congress,
Philadelphia Historical Society

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About  Alice Stephens

Born:  1858 - Salem, New Jersey
Died:   1932 - Moylan, Pennsylvania
Known for:  portrait and landscape painting, illustration, engraving

Essays referring to
Alice Stephens

Women Artists