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 Ella Sophonisba Hergesheimer  (1873 - 1943)



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Lived/Active: Tennessee      Known for: portrait, still life, landscape, etcher

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Ad Code: 3
Ella Sophonisba Hergesheimer
from Auction House Records.
Anne Clay McDowell, Granddaughter of Henry Clay
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Painter, printmaker, and teacher Ella Sophonisba Hergesheimer was considered a star pupil of William Merritt Chase and Cecilia Beaux, when she studied with them from 1900 to 1904 at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia. She apparently had inherited skilled-artist genes from her great-great grandfather, the legendary Philadelphia artist Charles Willson Peale.

Hergesheimer was born in Allentown, Pennsylvania in 1873 (Peale had named one of his daughters Sophonisba after the 16th Century Italian Renaissance woman artist, Sophonisba Anguissola). She studied at the Philadelphia School of Design for two years, and then at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.

In her final year at the Academy, she was determined to be best in the senior class, and achieved her goal when she was awarded a three-year Cresson traveling scholarship from 1904 to 1907. She had won other prizes during her first three years for achievements in perspective, animal and figure drawing, landscape and anatomy.

Using her scholarship, she visited Germany, Italy, and Holland, as well as Madrid, Paris and Normandy, France. She worked at the Colorossi School in Paris and exhibited four paintings at the Paris Salon.

In 1907, Hergesheimer was in Nashville, Tennessee to paint a commissioned portrait of Bishop Holland M. McTyeire, who influenced Cornelius Vanderbilt to endow what became Vanderbilt University. She would remain in Nashville the rest of her life.

Known for her portraits of important Tennesseeans, especially society women and their children, Hergesheimer also painted landscapes and still-lifes, and held art classes. Well known in Bowling Green, Tennessee, she had a wide circle of artist friends including Wickliffe Covington, Frances Fowler and Sarah Peyton.

She exhibited extensively in the South, winning medals and prizes at the Appalachian Exposition, Knoxville, Tennessee in 1910; Southern States Art League Exhibition in 1922 and 1925; Tennessee State Exposition in 1924 and 1926; as well as the Philadelphia Sesquicentennial Exhibition, also in 1926. Her lithograph, "Still Life with Apples" was named one of the "Fine Prints of the Year in 1938."

Hergesheimer's memberships included the National Arts Club, New York City; American Federation of the Arts, Washington, D.C; Philadelphia Print Club, Pennsylvania; Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts; Nicholson Art Lodge, Knoxville, Tennessee; Nashville Studio Club, Tennessee; and Southern States Art League.

Her works are in the collections of Vanderbilt University; Heckscher Museum in Huntington, New York; Reading Public Museum and Art Gallery in Pennsylvania; Tennessee State Museum; and the Morris Museum of Art in Augusta, Georgia.

Ella Sophonisba Hergesheimer died in Nashville in 1943.

Jules and Nancy Heller, "North American Women Artists of the 20th Century"

Biography from The Johnson Collection:
Ella Sophonisba Hergesheimer was born in Allentown, Pennsylvania in 1873. Her great-great grandfather was the famous early American painter, Charles Willson Peale, who encouraged his children to pursue art, several of whom became successful artists. Ella was named after her great grandmother, Peale's daughter, Sophonisba, who was in turn named after a woman artist from the Italian Renaissance, Sofonisba Anguissola. Hergesheimer embraced her family heritage and went by Sophonisba rather than by Ella.

As a child she was encouraged by the positive responses to her artwork. When she reached college age, she attended the Philadelphia School of Design for two years and then the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts where she studied under William Merritt Chase, Hugh Breckenridge and Cecilia Beaux. She was judged the best student in her senior class at the Academy and was awarded a three year Cresson scholarship to travel to Europe. Between 1904 and 1907 she visited France, Spain, Germany, and Holland. In Paris, her work was displayed at the prestigious Salon.

Upon her return to the United States in 1907, she was commissioned to paint a portrait of Bishop Holland M. McTyeire, one of the founders of Vanderbilt University. She traveled to Nashville for the commission and liked the area so much that she lived there for the rest of her life. She painted many portraits of Tennessee notables (including Joseph W. Byrns, Congressman and Speaker of the House from Tennessee) and showed her work throughout the South, including the Appalachian Exposition of 1910 and the Tennessee State Exposition of 1926 where she won gold medals for her work. Her work is currently displayed in the United States Capitol building, at the Tennessee State Museum, and at Vanderbilt University. Hergesheimer died in Nashville in 1943.

The Johnson Collection, Spartanburg, South Carolina

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