Art Wednesday: Lilla Cabot – American Poet & Painter

Open Air Concert 1890 Oil on canvas, 101 x 77 cm Museum of Fine Arts, Boston This canvas is one of the three plein-air compositions, painted at the home of friends with whom the Perrys resided for the summer in Milton, Massachusetts near Boston. Perry frequently used her three daughters as models: Margaret (born 1876) shown here playing the violin, Alice (born 1884) between her two older sisters, and Edith (born 1880) looking out at the viewer.

Open Air Concert
1890
Oil on canvas, 101 x 77 cm
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
This canvas is one of the three plein-air compositions, painted at the home of friends with whom the Perrys resided for the summer in Milton, Massachusetts near Boston. Perry frequently used her three daughters as models: Margaret (born 1876) shown here playing the violin, Alice (born 1884) between her two older sisters, and Edith (born 1880) looking out at the viewer.

One of the first American artists to embrace Impressionism during the late 19th century, Lilla Cabot was actually better known for her artwork with her four volumes of poetry.

Although she had no formal art training until age 36, Lilla Cabot Perry became a professional painter and a devotee of French Impressionism with a formidable body of work. She developed a solid reputation during her lifetime as a painter, helping to promote Impressionism in the U.S. and Japan.

Monet's Garden at Giverny c. 1897 Oil on canvas, 66 x 81 cm Private collection

Monet’s Garden at Giverny
c. 1897
Oil on canvas, 66 x 81 cm
Private collection

In 1874, she married Thomas Sergeant Perry, a Harvard alumnus scholar and linguist, and added his name. After marrying, Perry and her family traveled widely, living in Paris from 1887 to 1889, where Lilla studied painting. She also trained in Munich and copied old-master paintings in Italy, England, and Spain. It was in 1889, when she was 41 years old, that Perry saw her first Impressionist painting (a work by Claude Monet). Perry sought out the artist and became his close friend. For nine summers the Perrys rented a house at Giverny, near Monet’s, and although he never took pupils, he often advised Perry on her art.

Self portrait, The Green Hat 1913 Private collection

Self portrait, The Green Hat
1913
Private collection Image courtesy of WahooArt.com

Between 1898 and 1901, the family resided in Japan. This experience gave Perry a rare opportunity to study the sources of Impressionism notably Japanese fabrics and prints in depth. There, she produced some 80 paintings; she continued to be prolific throughout her life.

Landscape in Normandy c. 1890s Oil on canvas Newark Museum, Newark

Landscape in Normandy
c. 1890s
Oil on canvas
Newark Museum, Newark

Perry exhibited her work at the Paris Salon and the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893, and won medals for her paintings at important exhibitions in Boston, St. Louis, and San Francisco. She was active in numerous arts organizations and published four well-received volumes of verse.

On the Web: 

Lilla Cabot Perry – National Museum of Women in the Arts

A Portrait of Edith – Antiques Roadshow

Lilla Cabot Perry and Perry family papers

Lilla Cabot Perry – Wikipedia, including more background, photos, and additional artwork

Crash

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