National Museum of Women in the Arts
Cecilia Beaux
May 01 1855 - September 17 1942
Photograph of Cecilia Beaux, ca. 1871, by Ruth Pershing Uhler. 4 1/5 x 3 inches (11 x 7 cm). Cecilia Beaux papers, 1863-1986, Archives of American Art, Washington, DC, USA.
Place of Birth:
Phonetic Spelling:
seh-SEEL-yah boh
Minority status:
White non-Hispanic
Work Type/Media:
Decorative and utilitarian works, Drawings and prints, Painting
Artistic Role(s):
Commercial Artist, Decorative Artist, Lithographer, Painter, Portraitist
Artist's Biography:
Cecilia Beaux was born to Cecilia Kent Leavitt, a teacher, and Jean-Adolphe Beaux, a silk manufacturer from France. When her mother died twelve days after her birth, Beaux’s father returned to France, leaving Cecilia and her older sister, Aimée, to be raised by relatives. Fortunately, Cecilia’s early interest in art was encouraged at home and school; she studied with several local painters beginning in 1871.

By the age of eighteen, Beaux was earning her living through commercial art. During the following decade she made lithographs and painted on china while studying at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and taking private classes from several noted Philadelphia painters. She completed her first medal-winning portrait in 1884, and in 1888, after rejecting several marriage proposals, Beaux decided to devote herself to a career as a portraitist. That same year, she went to Europe, where she spent nineteen months studying at the Académie Colarossi, the Académie Julian, and an art colony on the Brittany coast. Back in Philadelphia, Beaux soon became a sought-after painter of prominent writers, politicians, and other artists. For many years, she taught at the Pennsylvania Academy, a practice she continued after moving to New York in 1898.

Beaux’s pictures were widely exhibited in the United States, Paris, and London. Her work was favorably compared with that of John Singer Sargent and Thomas Sully, and the summer house she built in Gloucester, Massachusetts, became a popular stopping point for her increasingly distinguished clientele. Her reputation hit its peak during the 1930s, when she received several major awards, had two retrospective exhibitions, and published her autobiography.

Other Occupation(s):
Teacher, Writer
Place(s) of Residence:
New York
Where Trained/Schools:
Académie Julian, Paris, France (1888 - 1889) Académie Colarossi, Paris, France (1888 - ca. 1889) Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, PA, USA (1877-1879) Van der Wielen School of Art, Philadelphia, PA, USA (1872-1874)
Related Visual Artists:
student of Katherine A. Drinker student of Adolf Van der Wielen student of William Sartain teacher of David Silvette teacher of Aimée Lamb friend of Ellen Day Hale friend of Margaret Bush-Brown friend of Martha Walter
Fellowships, grants and awards:
Gold Medal, American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York, NY, USA (1942) Gold Medal, Exposition Universelle, Paris, France (1900) Gold Medal, Carnegie Institute, New York, NY, USA (1899)
Earliest exhibition:
Annual Exhibition, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, PA, USA (1883)
NMWA exhibition(s):
Preserving the Past, Securing the Future: Donations of Art, 1987-1997
American Women Artists: 1830-1930
Four Centuries of Women's Art: The National Museum of Women in the Arts
Artist retrospective(s):
Cecilia Beaux: Portrait of an Artist, Philadelphia Civic Center Museum, Philadelphia, PA, USA (1974-1975) Exhibition of Paintings by Cecilia Beaux, American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York, NY, USA (1935)
Related places
Gloucester (died at)
Portrait of Israel Morris, ca. 1893
Portrait of James V. Watson, ca. 1893
Portrait of T. Wistar Brown, ca. 1893
Ethel Page (Mrs. James Large)
Portrait of Israel Morris
Portrait of James V. Watson
Portrait of Joseph Townsend
Portrait of T. Wistar Brown