Maria Oakey Dewing

born New York City 1845-died New York City 1927
Also known as
  • Mrs. T. W. Dewing
  • Maria Richards Oakey
  • Maria Richards Oakey Dewing
  • Mrs. Thomas Wilmer Dewing
  • Maria Oakey
New York, New York, United States
New York, New York, United States
Active in
  • Cornish, New Hampshire, United States

Maria Oakey Dewing and her husband, Thomas Wilmer Dewing, spent the summers from 1885 to 1905 at an artists' colony in Cornish, New Hampshire. There they cultivated the large garden that Maria studied and painted. In Garden in May [SAAM, 1929.6.26] the viewer has a "worm's-eye view" of a bed of carnations and roses. Dewing places the viewer among the living stems and blossoms that she knew so well. She has cropped a section from the larger bed for intense study, as if she had held a frame in front of the garden and painted only what fit in the rectangle.

As a young woman, Dewing published articles and books on etiquette and housekeeping. In later years she wrote about painting for the national magazine Art and Progress. Having studied at both the Cooper Union School of Design for Women and the National Academy of Design, she took her art seriously, as did critics.

Despite the success, her career held disappointment. As the wife of one of the most prominent figure painters of the day, she felt unable to compete with her husband, substituting her flower painting for the figure compositions she had exhibited in her student days. At the end of her life, Dewing expressed doubt in her accomplishments and regret for what she had given up: "I have hardly touched any achievement," she wrote in a letter the year she died. "I dreamed of groups and figures in big landscapes and I still see them."

Elizabeth Chew Women Artists (brochure, Washington, DC: National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution)

Artist Biography

Born Maria Richards Oakey, 27 October 1845, New York City. Probably in 1866, studied at Cooper Union School of Design for Women (New York) with William Rimmer and Robert Swain Gifford. From about 1867–69, studied at National Academy of Design, New York; also met and possibly studied with John La Farge. His flower paintings may have influenced her to specialize in this genre, for prior to 1881 she painted more portraits and figure paintings than still lifes.

May have studied with William Morris Hunt in Boston during early 1870s. 1875, exhibited at Cottier and Company, New York. 1876, first trip to Europe, where she studied with Thomas Couture at Villiers-le-Bel, France; visited Italy and England. 1878, exhibited at the first exhibition of Society of American Artists. Showed regularly at National Academy of Design.

Married Thomas Wilmer Dewing, 18 April 1881; lived in New York. After birth of daughter (1885), painted less frequently, though she collaborated with her husband, completing floral settings for his figures. From 1885 to early 1900s, spent summers in Cornish, N.H., art colony.

1907, one-woman show at Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. 1914, one-woman show at Knoedler &Co., New York. Died 13 December 1927, New York.

William Kloss Treasures from the National Museum of American Art (Washington, D.C. and London: National Museum of American Art with the Smithsonian Institution Press, 1985)


An artwork image of a woman
Sargent, Whistler, and Venetian Glass: American Artists and the Magic of Murano 
October 8, 2021May 8, 2022
This exhibition brings to life the Venetian glass revival of the nineteenth century on the famed island of Murano and the artistic experimentation the city inspired for artists such as John Singer Sargent and James McNeill Whistler.

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