In my last blog I looked at the beginnings of the Philadelphia Ten and how it was made possible for women to seriously study art at an all-women art establishment. Once there, they received the highest quality of training and in order to get more of their work exhibited they decided to set up their group and put on individual shows. So, who were the Philadelphia Ten?
The Philadelphia Ten group was made up of young female painters who had attended art school in Philadelphia, either at the Philadelphia School of Design for Women or the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Originally ten in number but soon the number of them who participated in the Philadelphia Ten group exhibitions eventually increased to thirty, seven of whom were sculptors. The main characters who are now looked upon as the driving force of the group were Isabel Branson Cartwright, Constance Cochrane and Edith Lucile Howard, all of who participated in all of the group’s sixty-five exhibitions held between 1917 and 1945. The other stalwart of the group was Mary Russell Ferrell Colton. In this blog I take a look at some of the “leading lights” of this group.
Isabel Parke Branson was born in Coatesville, Pennsylvania on September 4th 1885. In 1902, at the age of seventeen, she entered the Philadelphia School of Design for Women and was taught by Elliott Daingerfield and Henry B. Snell. She won the School’s travelling scholarship in 1906 which paid for one year’s study in a European city. Her choice of destination was London where she studied under the Anglo-Welsh artist, painter, water colourist, engraver, illustrator and progressive designer Frank Brangwyn. Whilst in Europe she took the opportunity to visit Holland, France and Italy.
In November 1911, at the age of twenty-six, she married the Texan, John Reagan Cartwright, and the couple went to live in Terrell, Texas, and whilst there she held a couple of solo exhibitions in the Texas cities of Fort Worth and San Antonio.
John Cartwright died in 1917 and Isabel Branson Cartwright returned to Philadelphia and joined the Philadelphia Ten group of female artists and took part in their exhibitions at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and the National Academy of Design. She favoured en plein air painting and soon discovered many ideal painting spots including Monhegan Island, off the coast of Maine. The island was one of her favourite places and in the 1940’s she acquired a house on it. In 1953, Cartwright moved to California, to live with her sister Laura and was involved in the artists’ colony at Carmel. She died in Ross, California in June 1966, aged 80.
Another of the most influential members of the Philadelphia Ten from the very beginning was the very talented painter, Mary-Russell Ferrell Colton. She was born on March 25th, 1889 in Louisville, Kentucky.
In 1904, at age of fifteen, Mary-Russell Ferrell enrolled at the Philadelphia School of Design for Women, and after studying there for four years, graduated with honours in 1909. Having left the school with honours, she opened her own studio in Philadelphia and spent her time in art restoration commissions and commercial art projects. In 1912 she married Harold Sellers Colton, a University of Pennsylvania zoologist and the couple took their honeymoon in the wilds of Arizona. Colton and her husband fell in love with the rugged beauties of this American state, and fourteen years later, in 1926, they made their home in Flagstaff, Arizona.
Colton was a gifted landscape painter and was inspired by the Colorado Plateau and during her time in Northern Arizona she painted in and around that area, a vibrant mix of high deserts and forests, over a mile above sea level. She completed many colourful works which gave a sense of both the beauty of the region and her deep emotional bond with the place that had become her home.
Colton and her husband established the Museum of Northern Arizona in 1928 and were committed to sustaining the history and cultures of northern Arizona and the Colorado Plateau. Colton wrote many books about the Hopi, a Native American tribe, who primarily live on the Hopi Reservation in north-eastern Arizona. Through her writing, painting and work as an advocate of Native American peoples and Native American arts, she made contributions to progressive education, the Indian arts and crafts movement and archaeology. As curator of art and ethnology at the Museum of Northern Arizona, she established annual exhibitions of Hopi and Navajo art that continue to this day.
Museum of Northern Arizona Fine Arts Curator Alan Petersen said of Colton:
“…Mary-Russell Ferrell Colton’s life and artwork echoed the optimism and modernity of the early twentieth century. Like many other artists and writers during this period, her work reflected the popular romantic perspective of the Southwest. That, and her sense of wonder at the natural world, defined her as an individual and as an artist…”
She was a member of the Philadelphia Ten, exhibiting at the group’s annual shows from 1926 to 1940. She was also a member of the National Association of Women Painters and Sculptors, the American Watercolour Society, and the American Federation of Arts
Colton died on July 26th, 1971, aged 82.
Constance Cochrane was born in 1888 at the U.S. Navy Yard at Pensacola, Florida, where both her father and grandfather were stationed. Constance Cochrane joined a family of career Marine Corps and Navy officers. Constance Cochrane, another of the original artists of the Philadelphia Ten, began to paint at the early age of six and during her passage through high school she always showed a considerable talent as a young artist. She graduated from Chester High School, Delaware County, Pennsylvania, and enrolled in the Philadelphia School of Design for Women where she was an illustration major. She, like many of the other Philadelphia Ten artists, was taught and influenced by her teacher, the painter Elliot Dangerfield. Cochrane studied with Dangerfield at his summer studio in Blowing Rock, North Carolina, as did many other future members of the Philadelphia Ten.
Constance Cochrane devoted her artistic career to painting images of the sea and landscapes showing the nearby shore and its rocks. For a brief time, she even joined the Navy during periods of the First and Second World Wars and was tasked with designing camouflage for ships.
Between 1921 and 1927 Cochrane lectured at the Philadelphia School of Design for Women and was the art chair for the Delaware County Federation. It was whilst in this role that she organised an exhibition of women artist works. The exhibition proved a great success and was so popular that it led to the Philadelphia Ten circulation of exhibits in the Pennsylvania State Federation. She held many positions in art societies, such as being chair of the Circulating Picture Club of the Philadelphia Art Alliance, and she also sat on the executive committee of the Philadelphia School of Design for Women and was one of their selection jurists for their 1935 exhibition.
As a painter Cochrane used the mediums of both oil and watercolour. Her work varied extensively from tiny thumbnail sketches to very large murals. Most of her work was done on Monhegan Island, Maine. In 1921 she visited the area and in 1930 made it her summer home.
Constance Cochrane died in 1962, aged 74.
Edith Lucile Howard was one of the early members of the Philadelphia Ten and showed her work at their exhibitions between 1917 and 1945. She was born in Bellow Falls , Vermont in 1885, the daughter of prominent businessman Daniel DeWitt Howard, a descendent of Henry Howard, one of the founders of Hartford, Connecticut. Her mother, Abigail Adams, was a descendent of a famous Massachusetts family. The family moved to Wilmington, Delaware when Edith was a teenager and at the age of nineteen Edith enrolled at the Philadelphia School of Design for Women where her teachers were Henry Bayley Snell and Elliot Dangerfield and she would attend the latter’s summer courses in North Carolina at which time she became very interested in landscape painting. She graduated from the Philadelphia School of Design for Women in 1908.
She attained two travelling postgraduate fellowships which allowed her to journey to Europe for the first time. She became an inveterate traveller both within America and abroad and it is said that during her life, she crossed the Atlantic more than thirty times. One of her favourite destinations was Ireland.
She had a studio in Carnegie Hall, New York but besides being an artist she was also an educator. She taught at the Grand Central Art Galleries and School of Art in New York and taught art history and fashion at the Philadelphia School of Design for Women. On weekends she would return to Wilmington where she acted as administrator of the Wilmington Academy of Art. She was also one of the directors of the Delaware Art Centre.
In 1938, aged 53 she married Herbert Roberts and the couple went to live in Moorestown, New Jersey. She retired from teaching in 1949 and the last time she exhibited her work was in 1959.
Edith Lucile Howard died in 1960, aged 75.
Another founding member of the Philadelphia Ten art group was Helen Kiner McCarthy, who was best known for her painted landscapes. She was born in Poland, Ohio on September 6th 1888. At the age of twenty she enrolled at the Philadelphia School of Design for Women, graduating in 1909. Like many others from the Philadelphia Ten group of female artists she was taught by Henry Bayley Snell and Elliot Dangerfield.
After finishing her art course, she remained in Philadelphia where she shared a studio, first with another Philadelphia Ten artist, Mary-Russell Ferrell Colton and later with Lucille Howard. Helen also spent some time teaching at the Philadelphia School of Design for Women before becoming one of the founder members of the Philadelphia Ten in 1917.
In 1920, McCarthy moved to New York City and established a studio at East 40th St. in Greenwich Village. It was around this time that her signature on her paintings changed. She began signing her paintings with her mother’s surname “Kiner” as her middle name becoming Helen K. (Kiner) McCarthy.
Helen also became a member of Philadelphia’s Plastic Club, an all-female organisation founded by art educator Emily Sartain. Her aim was to form a society which would allow women to promote their work, partly in response to the Philadelphia Sketch Club, which was an exclusively male arts club. The Plastic Club provided a social and professional network for women artists as well as exhibition opportunities at the club’s gallery on South Camac Street. Helen received a number of awards for her paintings from the Plastic Club and the National Association of Women Artists.
Unlike many of the other Philadelphia Ten’s group who lived into their sixties and seventies, Helen Kiner McCarthy died young. She passed away in 1927, just forty-three years of age.
This concludes the story of the Philadelphia Ten. This group of female artists came into being through the auspices of a wealthy patron and through the tuition of talented painters and educators.