A versatile artist and writer, Anna Lea Merritt was born in Philadelphia to an affluent Quaker family. Her father, Joseph Lea Jr., owned cotton manufacturing and printing factories, and three of her five younger sisters also developed careers in the visual and performing arts.
As a young girl, Lea attended politically progressive schools and studied classics, languages, mathematics, and music with private tutors. Initially, she taught herself to paint, but later she studied anatomy at the Women’s Medical College in Philadelphia and, after moving to Europe with her family in 1865, she took art lessons with various masters in Italy, Germany, and France.
At the start of the Franco-Prussian War, Lea settled in London, where her teacher—the British painter and picture restorer Henry Merritt—also became her mentor and, in April 1877, her husband. Unfortunately, he died just three months after their wedding. As a memorial, Anna taught herself to etch and produced a book of Henry Merritt’s criticism and fiction, illustrated with twenty-three of her prints. A prolific author in her own right, Anna also wrote and illustrated two books about Hurstbourne Tarrant, the English village to which she moved in 1891 and where she spent the remaining four decades of her life. In addition, she published articles about mural painting, gardening, and the obstacles facing woman artists.
Merritt executed several major mural commissions, as well as portraits and easel paintings on literary and religious subjects. A member of London’s Royal Society of Painters and Etchers, Merritt exhibited her work regularly at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the Royal Academy of Arts in London, and the Paris Salon. Her paintings and prints were also displayed at a number of prestigious venues, including the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia, the 1889 Exposition Universelle in Paris, and the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago.
Women's Medical College, Philadelphia, PA, USA (ca. 1865)
student and wife of Henry Merritt
student of Heinrich Hoffman
student of William H. Furness
student of Stephano Ussi
student of Alphonse Legros
colleague of James McNeill Whistler
colleague of Edward Burne-Jones
colleague of George Frederic Watts
colleague of George Cruikshank
colleague of Lord Frederic Leighton
colleague of William Powell Frith
colleague of William Holman Hunt
Honorable Mention, Exposition Universelle, Paris, France (1889)
Two Medals, World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago, IL, USA (1893)
Medal, Centennial Exhibition, Philadelphia, PA, USA (1876)
Annual Exhibition, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, PA, USA (1867)