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 Della Flora Cleveland  (1854 - )

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Lived/Active: Pennsylvania      Known for: still-life painter

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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 known.
            
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 daughters. 


Written and submitted October 2005 by Edward Bentley, art collector and researcher from Lansing Michigan.


Sources include:
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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