The History of Connecticut Women Artists
and the Founders First Exhibition
In 1928, the Director of the Wadsworth Atheneum, A. Everett "Chick" Austin, age 28, invited two local women to start an organization for women artists, promising them space for an annual exhibition at the Atheneum. In 1910, the Connecticut Academy of Fine Arts began presenting yearly juried exhibitions at the Atheneum. A few women participated in the shows, but the organization was run primarily by men.
The two women were Jessie S. Goodwin Preston (1879-1973) and Helen Townsend Stimpson (1886-1977). Preston and Stimpson were good friends, professionally trained artists, and prominent members of Hartford's social and artistic circles. Both had been early members of the Connecticut Academy of Fine Arts. While the modernist Austin may not have fully appreciated their more academic and conservative approach to painting, he felt that women artists should have an equal chance to exhibit their work.
Early Ties to the Wadsworth Atheneum
Frances Hudson Storrs, (1860-1945,) Untittled, Oil. Lent by Harriet Beecher Stowe Center for the Exhibition, "Where Are the Women?" at the USJ's Art Museum. Photo by Pauletta De Lucia
The Society of Women Painters and Sculptors of Hartford
Preston and Stimpson quickly went to work, putting together the Society of Women Painters and Sculptors of Hartford, later becoming Connecticut Women Artists, Inc. Prosperous Hartford had a large pool of professionally trained women artists from which to draw and the Hartford Courant announced the first exhibition on April 5, 1929. The article stated, "If the show is successful, it is planned to make the Women's Exhibition a yearly event. Hartford boasts a group of highly talented and capable women artists . . . This, however, is the first time the women painters have struck out for themselves, and the experiment should be an interesting one." The exhibition comprised fifty-two works by twenty artists aged twenty-eight to sixty-nine. The warmly received exhibition was so successful that the fledgling society flourished. By 1940 forty members were presenting 135 works in the annual exhibition. Many of the participants in the 1929 show were still active in the organization and exhibited in the annual shows well into the 1950s.
“If the show is successful, it is planned to make the Women’s Exhibition a yearly event."
Hartford Courant, April 5, 1929
Participants in the 1929 First Show
Ruth Edwina Abbey (1883-1960)
Muriel Alvord (Ward) (1900-1960)
Evelyn Longman Batchelder (1874-1954)
Germain Rouget Cheruy (1896-1980)
Ruth Merriam Cogswell (1887-1951)
Margaret Miles Cooper (1874-1965)
Mabel Bacon Plimpton English ((1861-1944)
Ruth Goldie (1901-1948)
Dorothy Alden Hapgood (1892-1973)
Carolyn Sarah Horsfall (1901-1988)
Maud Nottingham Monnier (1876-1932)
Clara Mamre Norton (1873-1941)
Jessie Goodwin Preston (1879-1973)
Edith Briscoe Stevens (1898-1931)
Helen Townsend Stimpson (1886-1977)
Eleanor Stoll (1885-1979)
Frances Hudson Storrs (1860-1945)
Inez Temple (1880-1945)
Cornelia Cowles Vetter (1881-1958)
Grace Chamberlain Vibberts (1878-1945)
In addition, two influential founders who joined for the second show were Edith Dale Monson (1875-1977), and Katherine Seymour Day (1870-1964).
Where Are the Women, Rediscovering the Origins of Connecticut Women Artists
"This is a story about why there were so many talented and professionally trained women artists in the area of Hartford... We are looking at a group of women at the very beginning of the era of modern women, where the woman really does have an identity of her own. So these are pioneers"
Gary Knoble, Art Historian, Collector
Video courtesy of the University of Saint Joseph's Art Museum, West Hartford, Connecticut