Signed and dated at lower left: "Mary Smith/1866"
Mary Russell Smith was born in Philadelphia, the daughter of the artists Russell and Mary Priscilla Wilson Smith; her brother Xanthus Smith was a well-known marine painter. At an early age Mary gravitated to sketching animals and insects directly from nature. She began to specialize in painting barnyard scenes peopled by chicks.
Mary exhibited at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts between 1859 and 1869, and from 1876 and 1878. She also exhibited at the National Academy of Design in New York in 1868. She suffered from chronic ill health and never married, leading a relatively isolated life at the family home Edgehill, north of Philadelphia.
During her brief career Mary Smith painted approximately three hundred pictures such as this example, and she never replicated a composition after it had been sold.
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