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 Margaret White Lesley Bush-Brown  (1857 - 1944)



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Lived/Active: New York/District Of Columbia      Known for: portrait, landscape, miniature, etcher

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Margaret Leslie Bush Brown is primarily known as Margaret White Lesley Bush-Brown

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Portrait painter and etcher Margaret Lesley Bush-Brown, born in 1856, was well aware of the difficulties of being a woman artist, and alert to the steps she had to take to insure the continuance and success of her chosen path in life.

She first worked making geological models for her professor father. Her mother, Susan Lyman Lesley, a social reformer and writer, was no doubt influential in establishing the independence of her daughter's thinking.  Bush-Brown gained a commitment from her husband, sculptor Henry Kirke Bush-Brown, whom she married in 1886, that she would continue to be an artist following their union.  In this capacity, she often made drawings for his sculpture as well as pursuing her own talents.

Active in the National Alliance of Unitarian Women, and a supporter of the Women's Suffrage Movement, she traveled frequently to fulfill portrait commissions.  She lectured on "The Relations of Women to the Artistic Professions."

Bush-Brown studied at the Philadelphia School of Design for Women and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, also in Philadelphia.  She was fortunate to study with an artist and teacher of Thomas Eakins' insight and stature from 1876 to 1880 at the latter institution after working with Christian Schussele there.  In 1880 in Paris, she continued her work with Emile-Auguste Carolus-Duran, then at the Academie Julian with Gustave Boulanger, Tony Robert-Fleury and Jules Lefebvre. Back in Philadelphia in 1883, she learned etching from Gabrielle De Vaux Clements.

Bush-Brown and her husband were in Italy and France in 1888-1890, where she gave birth to a son and daughter.  They moved to New York City, living there until 1910, when they went to Washington, D.C.

She exhibited etchings at the Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois and the Union League Club, New York Etching Club, Salmagundi Club, and National Arts Club in New York City.  Her paintings were regularly on exhibit at the National Academy of Design, New York City; Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Boston's St. Botolph Club, Boston Art Club, and the Paris Salon in France.  In addition to several world expositions, Bush-Brown also showed at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. in 1911 and Boston's Doll and Richards Gallery in 1923.

Bush-Browne was a member of the National Association of Women Painters and Sculptors, Woman's Art Club, National Arts Club and the Washington (D.C.) Society of Mural Painters. Her mural, "Spring," was painted for the Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Illinois.

Her portrait of Ellen Day Hale, 1910, depicts her good friend and fellow artist in her middle years, her face a glowing island of light contrasting with her black dress and hat.  This work is in the collection of National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.

Other paintings may be found in the collections of the National Museum of Women in the Arts, and Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.; Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts; New York Public Library; Boston Museum of Fine Arts and Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts.

Margaret Lesley Bush-Brown died in 1944 in Ambler, Pennsylvania.  Her children were also noted for their talent.  Her daughter Lydia, born 1887, was a well-known designer; her son James became a landscape architect, and her son Harold became professor of architecture at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Jules and Nancy Heller, North American Women Artists of the 20th Century
Peter Falk, Who Was Who in American Art

** If you discover credit omissions or have additional information to add, please let us know at

Margaret Brown is also mentioned in these AskART essays:
San Francisco Panama-Pacific Exhibition 1915

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