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 Laura Marquand Walker  (1857 - 1938)

About: Laura Marquand Walker


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Lived/Active: Massachusetts/New Hampshire      Known for: floral painting and fabric designs, photography, poetry

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Married to portrait and mural painter Henry Oliver Walker in 1888, Laura Walker spent the first summer of their lives together at Cornish, New Hampshire at the invitation of Thomas Dewing.  The couple returned frequently, and she was active in the community, being one of the founders in August, 1897 of the Mothers' and Daughters' Club, which she then served as first president and for many years held the title of Honorary President.

She was a painter, including one work titled Delphiniums; creator and embroiderer of floral fabric designs; and writer of a privately published book of poetry, Quatrains; and an Autobiography, Beyond a Gilded Cage.  Descriptions of her life from the autobiography are provided in a review by John Caruby, President of The Boston Art Club:

"Broken into six parts, it is obvious from part one that this tale will weave the myriad connections of 19th century Art and Society where parentages and paths weave closely and usually cross.  What today would be a great coincidence to meet a particular person was then nearly inevitable.  Family and acquaintances offered a possible great life for those bright or beautiful.

Part one of the book is Laura Marquand's early years in her Brahman universe.  The story is as closely knit and interwoven as the townhouse bricks of Beacon Hill.  You finish the first part aware of the tedium of such close quarters.  Although there is no literary charm here, it does show how Laura was given great latitude amongst her family and friends to develop into a charming and independent young woman.

The second part of the book continues with the anecdotes of the web of her family life, but they are freer and contain lush descriptions of the landscape and environs of Newburyport.  Laura composes her visual history less restrictively than her early years in Boston.  She is adept this way at showing her transition and maturation towards a powerful personality.

What is by far the most fruitful of Laura's chapters, the third, is her trip to California in 1883.  Here is where Laura Marquand truly struts in her own style and independence.  She pushes permissible activities to the edge while in the wilds of the lesser civilized west coast.  Laura writes in a sophisticated perspective of personal critique and passion with which it is easy and pleasing to connect.

Then comes marriage and babies in the carriage.

In chapter four, the appearance and commitment to Henry Oliver Walker along with starting a family in the last quarter of the 19th century is a tale that brings more of Laura Marquand's past social connections to bear amongst the travails of NYC and its art community.  The tales are painfully personal and show elements of suffering and joy that could not have been told this way until the 20th century. That Laura would open her life like this veritably shows the perpetual superior nature of her spirit.

As if birthing children were not enough, helping to bear a whole Art Colony in Cornish is a further chapter full of blessings and beastly problems.  Here again in chapter five it is shown how Laura well understood the ups and downs of life, and how she had difficulty like us all in coping with them and meaningfully expressing them.  Life with her husband and two children, one handicapped, creeps into your soul like the morning mountain mist. Kudos again to her openness.

Laura Marquand sews up the book in chapter six with compliments to her husband's credits in the Art world.  She subrogates her own great talent throughout her life in every chapter to the greater or, one might today say, lesser pressures of the 19th century feminine lifestyle. But if one reads closely in these five chapters of life's efforts, Laura humbly shows that she was able to maintain her artistic production. of which I would love to see more. And please, let's not forget her talent for writing."


Virginia Reed Colby and James B. Atkinson, Footprints of the Past: Images of Cornish, New Hampshire and The Cornish Colony, p. 421

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