Lilly Martin Spencer
November 26 1822 - May 22 1902
Photograph of Lilly Martin Spencer, ca. 1900, by Herve Homer. 6 2/3 x 4 1/3 inches (17 x 11 cm). Lilly Martin Spencer papers, 1825-1971. Archives of American Art, Washington, DC, USA www.aaa.si.edu
Place of Birth:
American, British – English
LIH-lee MAHR-tihn SPEHN-serr
Genre Painter, Oil Painter, Painter, Portraitist, Still life Painter
In 1830, eight-year-old Lilly Marie Martin was brought to the United States from her native England. Her mother and father, a politically progressive couple of French extraction, raised their daughter in the small town of Marietta, Ohio. When her artistic abilities and ambitions outstripped the cultural resources available there, her father took her to Cincinnati, where she studied with the portrait painter John Insco Williams.
At twenty-two, Martin married Benjamin Rush Spencer. They made their home first in New York, then in Newark, New Jersey, and then moved to a large house in Highland, New York, across the Hudson River from Poughkeepsie. The Spencers had thirteen children, seven of whom survived to adulthood; Lilly was the family’s principal breadwinner, while Benjamin managed their growing household. In the later 1840s and '50s, the artist became popular in Europe and America for her still life and portrait paintings, and especially for her humorous domestic genre scenes.
Spencer exhibited her paintings at the National Academy of Design and was represented at the Women’s Pavilion of the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition in 1876. She also produced work for a number of patrons. However, much of Spencer’s fame resulted from the widespread sale of inexpensive engraved copies of her oil paintings.
Place(s) of Residence:
National Academy of Design, New York, NY, USA (1848 - ca. 1850)
Private lessons, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA
Related Visual Artists:
student of John Insco Williams
student of Sala Bosworth
student of James Beard
influenced by Antoine Watteau
Fellowships, grants and awards:
Gold Medal, Philadelphia Centennial Exposition, Philadelphia, PA, USA (1876)
Honorary Member, National Academy of Design, New York, NY, USA (1850)
Rectory of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, Marietta, OH, USA (1841)
Four Centuries of Women's Art: The National Museum of Women in the Arts
American Women Artists: 1830-1930
Lilly Martin Spencer, 1822-1902: The Joys of Sentiment, National Collection of Fine Arts, Washington, DC, USA (1973)
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