Background: The fifth of ten children, Maria Oakey grew up in a cultured environment in New York City. Her father was an importer.
Training: She studied in two schools of design and with the celebrated stained-glass designer John La Farge, whose work greatly influenced her own. She traveled to Europe when she was 31 and studied under a famous figure painter.
Career: By 1875, Dewing had established herself as an artist, and she was one of the primary motivators behind the formation of the Art Student's League in New York. She was a well-established artist of portraits and figurative works when she married Thomas Wilmer Dewing, an artist who was less known. After that she began to specialize in flower paintings, perhaps to avoid competing directly with her husband.
Artwork: Most of her works present a gardener’s-eye view into a thicket of transparent petals and leathery leaves that extend beyond the borders of the canvas, giving the viewer a sensation of being immersed among the flowers. She created a middle ground between purely decorative flatness that resembled Japanese art and the illusion of depth found in Western art. Later in life she was wistful that as a wife of a successful figure painter she had not realized her full potential: "I have hardly touched any achievement... I dreamed of groups and figures in big landscapes and I still see them."
Example of Thomas Dewing's work:
The Days, 1884-86
Our photos of Maria's work:
|Poppies and Italian Mignonette, 1891|
MFA, Boston / Jan's photo, 2012
|Garden in May, 1895|
Smithsonian American Art
Photo by Dan L. Smith, 2006
|Rose Garden, 1901|
Crystal Bridges / Jan's photo, 2012
|Irises and Calla Lilies, c. 1905|
Detroit / Jan's photo, 2010