Cecilia Beaux began as a commercial artist, making exacting sketches of fossils for a United States Geological Survey project and painting portraits on porcelain. Like many ambitious nineteenth-century artists, she honed her skills in Paris. Her diaries reveal that she struggled under the pressure of the Académie Julian, but Beaux never lost her ambition and determination. She wrote in a letter, “You know how I hate to fail . . . my grip is pretty hard as a rule.” (Burns, “Under the Skin: Reconsidering Cecilia Beaux and John Singer Sargent,” Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, 2000) Critics were soon describing her work as “virile” and “strong,” comparing her canvases to those of John Singer Sargent. (May, “Cecilia Beaux: Portrait of the Gilded Age,” American Arts Quarterly, 1995) She was celebrated in Philadelphia and New York for her portraits of the East Coast elite, and her talents were recognized by the leading critics and institutions of her day. She was the first woman to secure a faculty position at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and she received honorary degrees from the University of Pennsylvania and Yale.
Luce Artist Biography