Cecilia Beaux

(American, 1855 - 1942)

Cecilia Beaux was born in Philadelphia, where she studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts from 1877 to 1879 and with William Sartain (1843-1924) from 1881 to 1883. She also studied at the Académie Julian in Paris in 1888. Beaux first exhibited at the Pennsylvania Academy in 1879. Her first major work, Les Derniers Jours d'Enfance (Pennsylvania Academy), a portrait of Beaux's sister Aimée Ernesta and her nephew Henry S. Drinker, Jr., was completed in 1884, after which her paintings began to receive popular attention. During her lifetime she was acclaimed as one of the finest American portraitists. Her awards included the Gold Medal of Honor from the Pennsylvania Academy in 1898, a gold medal at the Exposition aux Artistes Français in 1900, and the Medal of Honor at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco in 1915. Solo exhibitions of her work have been mounted at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., in 1912, at the American Academy of Arts and Letters in New York in 1935, at the Pennsylvania Academy in 1974, and at Alfred J. Walker Fine Art in Boston in 1990. From 1895 until 1915, Beaux taught at the Pennsylvania Academy, where she was the first woman engaged as a full-time faculty member. In 1924 she fell and broke her hip, an injury that greatly impaired her mobility for the rest of her life. She did continue to paint afterwards, and also wrote an autobiography, Background with Figures, which was published in 1930.