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 Anna Massey W Lea Merritt  (1844 - 1930)

About: Anna Massey W Lea Merritt
 

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Lived/Active: Pennsylvania / United Kingdom      Known for: figure, portrait, genre, still life

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Ad Code: 3
Anna Massey W Lea Merritt
from Auction House Records.
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Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Anna Massey Lea Merritt made a successful career in England and America as a painter of landscapes and portraits, and as an etcher. Her portraits and paintings of the figure have an introspective quality with a hint of primitivism.

Born in Philadelphia in 1844 to a Quaker family, Merritt began art study at age seven with William Furnass. In 1867, she accompanied her family to live in Europe and studied briefly with Heinrich Hofmann in Dresden, Germany, Stefano Ussi in Florence, Italy, and for a longer period with Henry Merritt, an art critic in London, beginning in 1872. The teacher-pupil relationship flowered into something more personal, but ended tragically with Henry Merritt's death just three months after their marriage in 1877. When she had married, Anna Merritt had intended to give up her career, but her widowed circumstance altered that decision.

She memorialized her deceased husband in a book she illustrated with twenty-three of his etchings. Merritt, also a writer, made quite a success of her etchings, both as illustrations for her own books, frontispiece portraits for other authors, and etchings as independent works of art. Her etchings appeared in periodicals including "American Art Review", "American Artists and Their Works", "American Etchings", and "The Etcher", as well as being published by Eyre and Spottswood, and by Christian Klackner, Wunderlich and Company.

She also continued with her painting talents, an area in which her reputation was already well established. The year before her marriage and her husband's death, she had won a medal at the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exposition. For the next thirty years, she exhibited at the Royal Academy of London. Her work was much influenced by the European academic tradition, with classical style and historical, allegorical, and literary subjects. In 1881, she arranged the exhibition titled "American Artists at Home and in Europe" at the Pennsylvania Academy. As a member of the Royal Society of Painters and Etchers, she was sought out for portrait commissions, and one of her subjects was "James Russell Lowell" (1882).

In 1890, she settled in the village of Hurstbouren Tarrant, a small English village in Hampshire, England, and shortly after that, completed a mural for St. Martin's Church in Surrey. Although living in England, she continued to work in America and frequently visited her hometown of Philadelphia. She painted a display specifically for the Woman's Building of the Columbian Exposition in 1893, and exhibited her paintings in a variety of other venues including the Royal Academy and Royal Society of British Artists in London; the Boston Museum of Fine Art; Boston Art Club; Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts; Philadelphia Society of Artists; National Academy of Design, and National Arts Club in New York City.

Merritt's etchings were also widely shown by the Royal Society of Painter-Etchers in England; Berlin Society of Etchers, Germany; Philadelphia Society of Etchers; Salmagundi Club and New York Etching Club in New York City.

Although Merritt had expressed that she had received little or no discrimination by men, she wrote in an article in "Lippincott's Magazine" in 1900 in a 'Letter to Artists':
The Chief obstacle to a woman's success is that she can never have a wife". (Rubinstein 114)

Anna Massey Lea Merritt died in 1930.




"American Women Artists" by Charlotte Rubinstein
"North American Women Artists of the 20th Century" by Jules and Nancy Heller
From Heller



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Anna Merritt is also mentioned in these AskART essays:
San Francisco Panama-Pacific Exhibition 1915

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