Born into a family of artists in New York City on January 4, 1884, Rachel Hartley was the daughter of sculptor Jonathon Scott Hartley and Helen Inness Hartley. Her grandfather was George Inness, one of America's greatest 19th century painters. She was raised in Montclair, New Jersey, and educated in private schools there. At age 17, and with a letter of recommendation from her famous grandfather, Miss Hartley entered the Art Students League in New York City as a special student. After her studies at the League were over, she worked in a studio next to her father's and devoted herself to portraits. In 1916, she was invited to accompany her botanist brother on the first William Beebe expedition to South America.
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