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 Arrah Lee Gaul  (1883 - 1980)

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Lived/Active: Pennsylvania      Known for: sea-landscape, portrait

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Arrah Lee Brennan is primarily known as Arrah Lee Gaul

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Ad Code: 3
Arrah Lee Gaul
from Auction House Records.
Along the St. Lawrence River, Harbor-Baie, St. Paul, Canada
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Earning her living as a portraitist, Arrah Lee Gaul was also an exceptional landscape and seascape painter.  She was the granddaughter of John Parkinson Gaul born and raised in Philadelphia and graduated from the Philadelphia High School for girls and the Philadelphia School of Design for Women.

A special influence on her art career was Henry B Snell, whose classes she attended in Brittany and Amalfi.  In 1917, she joined a group of women artists who became known as "The Philadelphia Ten," and in 1918, according to some sources, she married artist-designer Alfred Laurens Brennan, who died three years later.  In 1921, she signed her exhibition entries with the last name of Brennan at the Pennsylvania Academy, having used the name of Gaul in the entries of 1912 and 1916.

In 1921, she began teaching at the Philadelphia School of Design and eventually headed its art education department.  She traveled extensively and in 1924, she and Jane Peterson (1876-1965) went to Turkey, Greece, and Northern Africa. From 1950 to 1957, she traveled in the Far East and supported herself by selling her paintings.

Her portrait subjects included persons who were wealthy and poor, obscure and famous.

Peter Hastings Falk (ed.), Who Was Who in American Art
Note from Stacy Treuber, great granddaughter of Alfred Brennan, who according to several art historians, was married to Arrah Lee Gaul.  Treuber, who discovers reference to this marriage only in the records of Gaul and not Brennan has been puzzled because she and other family members only remember him being married to their grandmother, Lucy Lee.  About this puzzling circumstance, Treuber writes the following (November 2003):

Alfred Brennan's probate documents list Lucy Lee as his widow, as does his New York Times obituary.  They are buried together in Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn.  There is no divorce record in New York State between my great-grandparents, and both Alfred's daughter and my uncle have worked on the family genealogy and found none of this information.

I have to believe that had Alfred in fact married Arrah Lee Gaul, it would have come out at the time of his death.

Therefore I have some questions that I can't answer. If Alfred indeed married Arrah Lee Gaul, while a public figure himself and especially in New York, wouldn't the bigamy have come out in when he died in 1921?  And if such publicity occurred, why would Arrah Lee Gaul continue to use his name, either professionally or socially, until 1925 (according to Page Talbott's book)?  How would this marriage not have ruined her in that time period?

Also, why is Brennan mentioned in almost all of Gaul's biographies, but not her obituary? And, to my knowledge, she is never mentioned in one single thing written about him? Also, my family seems to have all his work from his last years.  Wouldn't Arrah Lee have had some of his work in her estate?

Not being an art historian, I do not know how facts become "facts." Is one person's research and scholarship relied upon over and over again? I found that Chris Pettey in his Dictionary of Women Artists has an entry on Arrah Lee under the name Brennan.  The edition is from 1985 which would predate the work of Page Talbott.  And Peter Falk, in his second volume of  Who Was Who in American Art (1999) lists Arrah Lee Gaul as having exhibited in at the Pennsylvania Academy under the name of Brennan whereas in 1912 and 1916, she used the last name of Gaul.  According to Falk, Gaul was "also known as Mrs. A.L. Brennan". (1252)

While I agree that Arrah Lee used the name Brennan, none of us in Alfred Brennan's family are convinced that it was because she was married to him. (I am also interested in finding out why some bio's on her list her birthday as 1883 and others list it as 1888).

Stacy Treuber

Members of the artist's family also dispute her marriage to Brennan. Her great-niece Natalie Davis Carlton, who knew her great aunt as a child, does not believe her aunt ever married.

These Notes from AskART represent the beginning of a possible future biography for this artist. Please click here if you wish to help in its development:
Arrah Lee Gaul was the granddaughter of John Parkinson Gaul who was born next door to the Betsy Ross House.  The young artist studied at the Philadelphia School of Design for Women between 1907 and 1910 on a scholarship.  Gaul traveled to Europe for summer studies.

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