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 Annie Oliver  (1867 - 1950s)

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Lived/Active: New York/California      Known for: painting, drawing

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Drawing 10" x 14"
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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Annie Oliver was born on March 20, 1867 in Fergusonville, New York.  She died in the 1950's in Los Angeles.  Her parents were James Oliver (1828-1902) and Emily Augusta Jayne (1837-1880) . James and Emily owned the Fergusonville Academy in Fergusonville, New York, near present day Davenport.  James was a progressively minded educator for his day, and Emily taught foreign languages and drawing.

Emily's diary, in the Rare Books and Manuscript Library of Columbia University, gives intimate details of the life of a Victorian woman of the time.  Annie was the second of five children who lived past infancy.  Annie's three brothers died relatively young of infectious disease, and Emily died of pneumonia when Annie was 13 years old.  Annie received her early education at the Academy.  After his wife's death, her father sold the Academy, remarried, and moved to Burlingame, Kansas.  Annie, remaining in the East, then lived with various relatives.

Annie Oliver attended the New York School of Art.  Among her teachers were William J. Baire and Henry B. Snell.  When she was beginning to exhibit and starting a career her health began to fail, and she moved to California where her health gradually improved, but whatever her problem, she was prematurely grey.

She married her cousin, Walter Henry Oliver, June 8, 1904, in Rialto, California.  He was a civil engineer for the Santa Fe Railroad, and before being promoted to an office, he and Annie lived in a railroad outfit car where his work building bridges and tunnels took them.  She had children George Jayne Oliver and Louise Oliver relatively late in life.  In 1921, Walter was killed in a railroad accident.

Some of this information is taken from the autobiography of her daughter Louise Oliver (Beebee.)  To quote from that autobiography: "before she became dignified she studied art with a lady of rather complex mind who set her to work with a sheet of bristol board at the weary task of reproducing a peacock feather, or perhaps a small wooden cube, exactly as it appeared before her.  This was absolutely incompatible to my future mama's idea, so she oscillated from one bad teacher to another bad teacher until she finally discovered a good one--William J. Baire." 

"Baire had just arrived from Munich, where he had been studying.  In his class, says my mama, were two very distinguished artists--Annie Oliver and William M. Chase. I trustfully believe my mama.  Baire, a great, tall fellow incongruously enough took to miniatures, later, and his name is now a familiar one in art circles.  Feeling the urge for a more cosmopolitan life, my roving mama packed up her brushes and turpentine and paints and departed for New York City, where she met some more bad instructors.  One of these was the chaste Miss Sanborn, a small quaker, who earnestly taught the nude.  The principal difficulty attendant upon her teaching was that the great roll of hair which she wore, and which was always fastened with exactly one hairpin, was constantly descending, upon which the pupils invariably ran meticulously forward to prevent her from suffering a horrible death by suffocation. One day her school was raided by Anthony Comstock, a reformer searching for vice conditions.  The indomitable Miss Sanborn held him in conversation at the door, while the model discretely hied himself behind the screen.  Fortunately Anthony forgot to inspect the sketches, probably assured of Miss Sanborn's propriety by her thees and thous, which savoured of the Biblical.  At any rate, the reputation of Miss Sanborn's school continued to be of the highest."

The Kansas State Historical Society has letters and photographs from the family of Walter Henry Oliver and Annie Oliver, including a copy of the autobiography of Louise Oliver (Autobiography of an Egotist), 1928.

This biography of Annie Oliver was written by her grandson John Christopher Beebee.  A sample of the works of Annie Oliver may be seen at

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