1828 - 1905
Print of Ellen Robbins in her studio, unknown date, from a photograph by J. Appleton Brown, courtesy of the Watertown Free Public Library, Watertown, MA, USA
Place of Birth:
Textiles and clothing, Drawings and prints, Painting
Fabric Designer, Needleworker, Painter, Printmaker, Self-taught Artist, Sketcher, Still life Painter, Watercolorist
Ellen Robbins is best known for her watercolor paintings of flowers and autumn leaves. Primarily a self-taught watercolorist, Robbins was born in Watertown, Massachusetts in 1828. During her youth, she spent hours copying lithographs from drawing books. During the 1940s, she studied briefly at the New England School of Design and Manchester Printworks. Discouraged from further pursuit in design by her instructors, she became more determined to paint, and although unable to find a suitable watercolor teacher, began experimenting on her own. Her early flower paintings demonstrate an attentiveness to detail reminiscent of works by John Ruskin. As her style matured, however, it became more decorative and abstract.
Robbins first began selling works as albums which she sold to friends and relatives. As awareness of her talent spread, she began displaying and selling work at Doll and Richards Gallery. Encouraged by increasing sales of her works and by the praise of critics and lifelong friend Harriet Goodhue Hosmer, Robbins continued working. Often composing her paintings in a flat, decorative style, she decided to experiment with painting flowers on wood. Using pen and black watercolor, Robbins painted ornamental floral designs on a complete set of furniture. Although the furniture sold, she never again undertook such a laborious endeavor, focusing instead on her paintings.
As was the fashion, Robbins began painting in oil on ebonized panels. She was commissioned to paint a floral frieze at Wellesley College in Massachusetts for which she was highly praised. She exhibited her paintings at the Boston Art Club and in 1876, at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition. When her works were reproduced in chromolithographs by Louis Prang, she became well-known in England where the prints became very popular. After a prolific career that brought her international fame, Robbins died in Boston in 1905.
New England School of Design, Boston, MA, USA (ca. 1840 - ca. 1848)
Private lessons, Boston, MA, USA (ca. 1840 - ca. 1848)
Manchester Printworks, Manchester, NH, USA (ca. 1840 - ca. 1848)
friend of Harriet Goodhue Hosmer
student of Stephen Tuckerman
student of Albert Bellows
Agricultural Fair, St. Louis Agricultural & Mechanical Association, St. Louis, MO, USA (1869)