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 Catharine Ann Drinker Janvier  (1841 - 1922)

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Lived/Active: Pennsylvania      Known for: figure, genre-religious and narrative painting, teaching

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Catharine Ann Drinker Janvier
An example of work by Catherine Drinker
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
A prominent artist and art teacher in Philadelphia at the latter part of the 19th century, Catherine Drinker Janvier won the prestigious Mary Smith Prize in 1880 at the 51st Annual Exhibition of the Pennsylvania Academy.  The prize-winning painting was titled Old Fashioned Music, and "represented the culmination of twenty years of artistic production."  The painting had signature images of Janvier including lush tropical foliage, an exotic Victorian interior, a skillfully rendered figure, and motifs from the Orient.

At age eight, Janvier, born Catharine Drinker in Philadelphia, left that city with her family to join her father, Sandwich Drinker, in Macao, China, where he was a mariner and prominent merchant in the East India trade.  The Janviers spent eight years in China, and Catharine excelled in mathematics, literature, Oriental art, and French and Latin language.  She also learned navigation from her father.  The Drinkers had a very active social life with Hong Kong merchants who hosted them at lavish parties in a world "that played against a backdrop of political intrigue, plots, and unrest."

In 1858, Sandwich Drinker, possibly a victim of that intrigue, died of arsenic poisoning.  He was buried in Macao, and his friends raised $12,000. for his wife and children, and the family returned to America.  The mother and the children settled in Baltimore where Mrs. Drinker opened an academy for young ladies.  In 1860, Catherine was forced to take over the Academy when her mother died, and she kept the school opened for several more years.  She also began taking art lessons at the Maryland Institute.  By 1865, she had moved the family to Philadelphia, and by 1868, she was taking art training at the Pennsylvania Academy, enrolled in the first women's class along with Emily Sartain and Ida Waugh.  She also returned to PAFA in the mid 1870s as a student of Thomas Eakins.

In the 1870s and 1880s, she had strong accomplishment, both as a painter and teacher.  She gave private lessons including to Cecilia Beaux, her most gifted student and one who remains one of America's most prominent women artists.  Janvier also taught at Miss Sanford's School and secured a teaching position there for Miss Beaux.  Janvier and Beaux had a life-long friendship and also a family connection when Beaux's brother married Janvier's sister.

In 1878, Janvier became the first woman hired by the Pennsylvania Academy to give a series of lectures on perspective. She had finished about 22 major paintings including historical genre, portraits, and religious subjects and exhibited widely including the National Academy of Design, the Brooklyn Art Association, the Pennsylvania Academy, and the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition.

Old Fashioned Music (1880) has been described as "her last significant painting . . . not only a memory of her years in China, but also a reflection of her training with Eakins and her own fascination with the decorative arts".  In 1878, the artist had married Thomas Allibone Janvier, a Philadelphia journalist, and she shifted her energies from painting to writing and traveling with her husband.  She translated books from Provencale and traveled to Mexico for research on her husband's guidebooks to travel in that country.

She died in Philadelphia in 1922, having lived there with her brother after her husband's death.

Source:
Tara Leigh Tappert, American Women Artists (Stephanie Strass-Introduction)


Note from From: Stephanie Strass

"The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography", Volume CXXIV, No.3, July 2000.

This is a special issue devoted to Cecilia Beaux: Philadelphia Artist. In this publication, see "Aimee Ernest and Eliza Cecilia: Two Sisters, Two Choices," by Tara Leigh Tappert, page 249, for extensive discussion on the role of Catharine as teacher and mentor to Cecilia.


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