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 Mary Vaux Walcott  (1860 - 1940)

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Lived/Active: District Of Columbia/Quebec/New Brunswick / Canada      Known for: wildflower and landscape watercolor painting

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Ad Code: 4
Mary Vaux Walcott
An example of work by Mary Vaux Walcott
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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Wildflower painter, Mary Vaux Walcott was born into an affluent Quaker home on July 31, 1860, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where she grew up. She attended the local Friends' Select School, from 1869-1879, studying drawing and painting privately for four years. She and her father, holding the Quaker belief in the importance of travel and nature study, began making regular trips to the American West and Canada, after the mother died in 1880.

They traveled to Montreal and Quebec in the fall of 1880, and to Colorado in the following year. In 1883 she traveled again to Colorado as well as Utah, Nevada, and California and, in 1885, to Yellowstone National Park. Two years later, she made her first visit to the Canadian Rockies, returning many times from 1894 on. She made several challenging mountain climbs, including Mount Stephen in 1900, becoming the first Anglo woman to scale such a high peak in Canada.

Walcott, settled in Washington, D.C., while continuing to visit the Canadian Rockies or the American West after her 1914 marriage to Charles Doolittle Walcott, secretary of the Smithsonian Institution and former director of the U.S. Geological Survey. Though she still painted on her trips, she also assisted her husband with his surveys. They took their last trip together in 1925, two years before his death. President Coolidge then appointed her to the Board of the Indian Commissioners and, from 1927 to 1933, she visited more than one hundred reservations.

Walcott early painted landscapes, but soon turned to wildflowers, carrying a set of watercolors. Walcott had an exhibition of her paintings at the Anderson Galleries, New York, in 1924. She would complete more than one thousand wildflower paintings, many appearing in her five-volume, North American Wild Flowers, published, in 1925, by the Smithsonian Institution. She was working on a two-volume set of watercolors when she died on August 22, 1940, in New Brunswick, Canada.

Reference works containing information on the life and work of Mary Walcott include: Petteys; American Women; Notable American Women 3; McMahan; Walcott, North American Wild Flowers; Cavell; C. Smith; Science, 25 Oct 1940; Cairn (Whyte Foundation, Banff), Summer 1983; New York Times. 7 Jun 1914, 2 Mar 1924, 25 Aug 1940; Washington Post (DC), 25 Jan 1925, 24 Aug 1940; US Census 1900, Philadelphia County, PA, ED 186, pg 17; Philadelphia City Directory; A. Huculak (Archivist, Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, Banff), 1990.

Phil Kovinick and Marian Yoshiki Kovinick, "An Encyclopedia of Artists of the American West"

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