|This biography from the Archives of AskART:|
|Della F. Cleveland is one of the many 19th-century women artists whose
promising careers were short-lived and about whom relatively little is
Christened Flora Della Cleveland, she was born January 19, 1854, the
second child of Washington La Fayette and Julia (Stidd)
Cleveland. Mr. Cleveland was originally from Smyra, New York and
was the descendant of a decorated Revolutionary War
soldier. He initially was a schoolteacher while he learned
the carpenter’s trade. After oil was discovered in Western
Pennsylvania, the family moved in 1861 to Erie, Pennsylvania where he
established an oil refinery and invested in oil fields.
Later he owned Cleveland & Company, a foundry that manufactured
mill and machinery castings. The family residence was located at
819 East 8th Street.
The three Cleveland children were educated in the Erie schools with
their father at one point serving as secretary and treasurer of the
city school board. In 1870, Miss Lovisa O. Card founded a local
Art School. There, lessons were given in pencil, crayon, pen and
ink, pastel, oils and watercolors. Della’s sister Jennie Ruth was
known to have taken lessons there, and it is likely that Della also
began her instruction about that same time.
Nothing further is currently known of her early artistic training, if
any, between her early lessons with Miss Card and her first public
exhibit in 1884. Additionally, she was listed in the city directories
between 1879 and 1882 as a schoolteacher. After 1884 she is shown
as an artist and living with her sister - also a schoolteacher and
artist - at 729 Peach Street in Erie.
As for Miss Cleveland’s artistic career, her first known exhibition was
at the local Erie Exposition of Amateur Art in 1884. There she
showed oil paintings and embroidery designs. Her sister Jennie
also exhibited, showing seven pieces of artwork that included four oil
paintings. At the National Academy of Design in New York Della has
a painting titled “Still Life” accepted for exhibition in 1890 and in
1891 she had two more accepted titled “Grapes” and “Quinces.” A
local newspaper commented on the latter painting in 1891,
stating, “…some excellent still-life paintings were shown” and
included Quinces by Della F. Cleveland in the
listing. No interviews or critical acclaim for her work
have been found. Indeed, an in depth survey of the art history of
Erie, Pennsylvania by Dr. Kirk Steehler in 1995 included her only by
name in the context of her younger sister Jennie Ruth’s career.
On November 13, 1894, Miss Cleveland married Charles Henry Hodges,
becoming his second wife. He was listed as a lawyer in New York
with a home in Brooklyn. Any further commitment to an artistic
career seemed to have then ended with her marriage and move to New
York. Absolutely nothing further is known about her, even the
date of her death, although she is mentioned in the obituary of her
mother, Mrs. Julia Cleveland, in 1902, as being one of two remaining
Written and submitted October 2005 by Edward Bentley, art collector and researcher from Lansing Michigan.
Moses Cleveland Genealogy, p. 1472; Erie County Library System
Erie Art Museum archives
Dr. Kirk Steehler, Erie Artists – A History of Heroes, unpublished manuscript courtesy of Erie Art Museum.
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