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 Sarah Eden Smith  (1828 - 1908)

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Lived/Active: Massachusetts      Known for: domestic genre, portrait, figure, landscape and still life painting

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Sarah Eden Smith
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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Sarah Eden Smith (1828-1908)

She was born in 1828 in Charlestown, Massachusetts.  She lived most of her life at the Smith family homestead in Salem, Massachusetts where she died in 1908.  Smith’s grandfather, Captain Jesse Smith, was a Revolutionary War hero and personal bodyguard to George Washington.  Her maternal grandfather, Captain Thomas Eden, was a wealthy sea merchant.  Thanks to the small fortune he made during his life, Smith was afforded the opportunity to devote her life to art.  Smith’s father and only brother were U.S. Naval officers, both of whom died in sailing disasters.
Ms. Smith’s artistic talent was recognized early, and she began her studies at the former Lowell Institute in Boston under the tutelage of William Rimmer, William Tolman Carlton, and George Hollingsworth.  Smith later became one of the first students accepted into the studio of William Morris Hunt.  Smith also spent time in New York City where she continued her art studies.
Smith’s drawings and watercolors were exhibited at the Boston Art Club from 1877-1879, and again in 1881.
In 1880, Ms. Smith spent time in North Carolina seeking new subject matter for her paintings. Later that year, she exhibited the following artworks at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts; an oil painting entitled Sunset at Falmouth, an oil painting entitled The Willows, and a plaster mask of the face of the poet Keats.

In the summer of 1883, Smith was invited by the head of the Hampton Institute in Virgina to teach drawing to Native American students.  These students represented ten different tribes from across the U.S.  Shortly after her arrival at Hampton, Smith added another drawing class to accommodate the Institute’s African American student.

In the fall of 1884, two of Ms. Smith’s watercolors were exhibited in the Fifteenth Exhibition of the Massachusetts Charitable Mechanic Association.  One was titled Spa-Na-Da-Ka Abickee Girl, and the other titled Aunt Nancy.  These works had been completed the previous year when Smith taught at the Hampton Institute.

In 1896, Ms. Smith exhibited a miniature watercolor entitled Portrait of Jesse Smith at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.  Again in 1901, Ms. Smith exhibited Portrait of Jesse Smith at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and in 1898, Ms. Smith exhibited a pastel entitled Chocorua.

For many years, Smith taught art classes in her Salem home.  A year before her death, Ms. Smith wrote Reminiscences of a New England Church and People, a treatise about Salem’s old South Church which had been destroyed by fire in 1903.

Ms. Smith died on March 29, 1908 and was buried in the Smith family plot at Harmony Grove Cemetery in Salem, Massachusetts.

Compiled and written by Robert Burns whose sources are:
1.  conversations with one of Ms.Smith’s descendants, Robert H. Small of Gainsville, Georgia;
2.  conversations with the town librarian in Salem, Massachusetts;
3.  U.S. Census records at;
4.  The Naumkeag Directory for Salem Inhabitants and Businesses, for the years 1900 and 1908;
5.  obituaries from The Salem Evening News and The Salem Daily Gazette, March 30 and 31, 1908;
6.  a two-part article from the Boston Evening Transcript, June 13 (page 6) and June 21 (page 8), 1884, entitled “A Summer Experiment: Art Among the Indians”, written by Sarah Eden Smith.

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