An award-winning painter who developed a highly successful personal variation on Impressionism, Beatrice Whitney Van Ness was also an authority on art education, an author, and an influential teacher for nearly forty years.
Beatrice Whitney was born and raised in the Boston suburbs. From age seventeen through twenty-five, she was a student at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, where her principal professors were the American Impressionists Edmund Tarbell, Frank Benson, and Philip Hale. From them—and from Charles S. Woodbury, a noted New England painter with whom she studied during the mid-1920s—she learned to depict the effects of bright sunlight.
In 1915, she married Carl Norwood Van Ness and shortly thereafter had two daughters. The family settled in Brookline, Massachusetts, and spent summers at Bartlett’s Harbor in North Haven, Maine, an idyllic island retreat. There she made oil and watercolor sketches outdoors, shipping them back to Brookline, where she would complete them.
Teaching was an important part of Van Ness’s life. She was appointed to her first post at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts while still a student there, a clear indication of the high regard in which she was held. Between 1921 and 1949, Van Ness founded, directed, and taught in the innovative art department at the Beaver Country Day School in Chesnut Hill, a suburb of Boston. Van Ness also taught at five other local schools, wrote numerous articles on art education, and served on several prestigious educational commissions.
In addition to five solo exhibitions held during her lifetime, Van Ness also participated in major international expositions and won numerous prizes. She kept painting until the age of ninety-one.
Private lessons (ca. 1925)
School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA, USA (1905-1913)
student of Edmund Tarbell
student of Frank Benson
student of Philip Hale
student of Charles S. Woodbury