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 Marie Henrietta Osthaus Griffith  (1855 - 1927)

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Lived/Active: Ohio / Germany/Russian Federation      Known for: landscape, still life and coastal view paintings

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Marie Osthaus is primarily known as Marie Henrietta Osthaus Griffith

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Marie Henrietta Osthaus Griffith
from Auction House Records.
Pink and White Roses
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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Marie Osthaus was born September 26, 1855, in Wohldenberg, Hanover, Prussia. One of seven children born to Henry and Henrietta (Hunnemann) Osthaus, she was the older sister of Edmund Osthaus, the artist later known for his paintings of hunting dogs.

In 1864, Maximilian, then Archduke of Austria, was sent by the French emperor Napoleon III to Mexico to rule in support of the French claim to the throne.  Henry Osthaus accompanied him in the position of Secretary and also brought his family with him.  In June of 1867, having lost the support of the French government, Maximilian was betrayed and executed by troops of the Mexican Republic under Juarez.  The Osthaus family, helped by friendly locals, fled to the United States and settled in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

The Oshkosh city directories for the late 1860's list Henry Osthaus as a salesman and a few years later as a bookkeeper.  Mrs. Osthaus is shown as a dressmaker and music teacher.  In 1880, Marie and her sister Francis are listed as dressmakers also.  Edmund Osthaus, absent while studying at the famed Dusseldorf Academy of Art and in the studio of the celebrated German artist Christian Kroner, is noted in the local Oshkosh newspaper as arriving home on the 14th of July, 1881.

The Toledo Blade, the local Toledo, Ohio newspaper, commented on Marie's early development in art in an article about the Athena Club in 1912 stating: "From childhood Mrs. Griffith displayed a love of color, and her subjects were the flower petals from the garden of a country home.  Her taste was cultivated by a wise father, who encouraged his children to use the pencil for drawing.  But the study of art seriously began only after her artist brother returned from his studies in Europe.  He recognized her ability and encouraged and aided her in taking up painting as a profession."  Under her brother's direction she made significant progress: by late 1883, brother and sister had their own studio together while also exhibiting locally and being listed in the city directory as artists.

The local Oshkosh newspapers, whenever commenting on her work were always generous in the praise and appreciation.  Typically, the Oshkosh Northwestern remarked on her exhibit at the New Orleans Exposition in 1885: "In the Woman's department of our state exhibit the work of an Oshkosh artist has a prominent place. Miss Mary H. Osthaus of our city has fourteen paintings and all of them good; some much above the average.  Particularly is this true of her flower pieces.  Here her success is most marked." Choosing one outstanding work October Flowers, they continue: "These wild flowers of Wisconsin...are most faithfully, lovingly portrayed.  We consider this as a flower piece one of the best in the exposition.  The closer and longer the inspection, the better it is appreciated."

Miss Osthaus also supported the local art scene: she gave lessons there in Oshkosh and in surrounding cities, took pupils on sketching trips and exhibited regularly with her brother Edmund at the yearly area fairs.

In May of 1886, Edmund Osthaus was hired as the Director of the new Toledo Blade Art School and left Oshkosh to take up that position in Toledo, Ohio.  Marie, meanwhile, married Ellsworth Griffith in September of 1887.  Late in 1888, the Griffith's and the Osthaus family joined Edmund in Toledo where Marie was hired as Assistant Teacher to her brother, replacing Amy Kirkpatrick.

Mrs. Griffith became involved in family life, having five children - four daughters and a son - while becoming an important part of the Toledo artistic scene.  In 1903 the Athene Society was organized by the wife of the Director of the Toledo Museum of Art, Mrs. George Stevens.  Marie Osthaus Griffith was elected Vice-President.  This group met to "assist and encourage women engaged in all branches of the Fine and Industrial Arts," and is still in existence today.

While maintaining a studio at her home, she also taught for many years at St. Ursala's Academy and Art School, a boarding and day school for girls.  In addition, she was a member of the Society of Western Artists and the National Society of Associated Artists. Mrs. Griffith exhibited quite regularly with the Athena Society and the Toledo Federation of Artists, the latter formed in 1918.  She produced a significant amount of work which was always well received. After an illness of about four months, she died on the 17th of July, 1927.

Submitted by Edward Bentley, art collector and researcher, September 2003

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