Friday, November 6, 2009

Anna Lea Merritt

Born September 13, 1844, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Died April 7, 1930, Hurstbourne Tarrant, Hampshire, England.
"A versatile artist and writer, Anna Lea Merritt was born in Philadelphia to an affluent Quaker family. Her father, Joseph Lea Jr., owned cotton manufacturing and printing factories, and three of her five younger sisters also developed careers in the visual and performing arts. [Her mother was Susanna (Massey) Lea.]
As a young girl, Lea attended politically progressive schools and studied classics, languages, mathematics, and music with private tutors. Initially, she taught herself to paint, but later she studied anatomy at the Women’s Medical College in Philadelphia and, after moving to Europe with her family in 1865, she took art lessons with various masters in Italy, Germany, and France. At the start of the Franco-Prussian War, Lea settled in London, where her teacher—the British painter and picture restorer Henry Merritt—also became her mentor and, in April 1877, her husband. Unfortunately, he died just three months after their wedding. As a memorial, Anna taught herself to etch and produced a book of Henry Merritt’s criticism and fiction, illustrated with twenty-three of her prints [entitled "Art Criticism and Romance"]." - from CLARA
"She received a diploma and medal at the Centennial exposition, Philadelphia, 1876, and was until 1901 a constant exhibitor at the Royal Academy; was elected a member of the Royal Society of Painter-Etchers, London, and received an award and medal in the British section of the World's Columbian exposition, Chicago, 1893, for a large decoration in the vestibule of the Women's building. After 1890 she made her home chiefly in a retired village in Hampshire. England, giving much time to subjects suggested by country
scenes. The summers of 1894 and 1895 were devoted to mural paintings for St. Martin's Church, near Wonersh, Surrey, England. She etched [among others] two portraits of Mary Wollstonecraft (1879); portrait of Sir Gilbert Scott (after George Richmond) (1883); portrait of Ellen Terry as Ophelia; and portrait of James Russell Lowell. She painted, among other pictures: 'Portrait of a Young Lady'; 'The Pied Piper of Hamelin' (1872); 'St. Cecilia' (1886); 'War' (1883); 'Eve Overcome by Remorse' (1885), which obtained a medal and award from the British section at the Chicago World's Fair, 1893; 'Camilla' (1883), honorable mention Paris exposition, 1889; 'Love Locked Out' (1890) purchased by the Chantrey fund and ultimately placed in the National Gallery of British Art; 'When the World Was Young' (1891); 'A Piping Shepherd' (1895) purchased by the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts; 'The Narrow Way', and 'I Will Give You Rest'. Of her many portraits the more important include: 'General Dix' (1876); 'Lady Dufferin' (1877); 'James Russell Lowell' (1882); 'Miss Marion Lea', her sister (1887) [an actress - married Langdon Mitchell]; 'General the Earl of Dundonald and Countess Dundonald' (1887). Mrs. Merritt is the author of several magazine articles on gardening [principally in the Century and Lippincott's], and of a book, illustrated by herself, entitled: 'A Hamlet in Old Hampshire' (1901)." - from The twentieth century biographical dictionary of notable Americans ... 1904.
(In 1981, Love Locked Out: The Memoirs of Anna Lea Merritt with a Checklist of Her Works was published by the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.)
CLARA - National Museum of Women in the Arts
1. Anna Lea Merritt (from The twentieth century biographical dictionary of notable Americans ... 1904)
2. A Duet
3. Etching of Ophelia
4. Etching of Ellen Terry as Opelia
(Etching of Ellen Terry as Ophelia © National Portrait Gallery)
Art criticism and romance: with recollections, and 23 etchings

The Royal Academy of Arts: a complete dictionary of contributors and their work from ... 1769-1904, Volume 5 - with listings for Anna Lea Merritt.
[PDF] file - Guide to the Anna Lea Merritt Papers - from the National Museum of Women in the Arts (Washington, D.C.). With a list of 40 photographs of works by the artist.


  1. Wow, you have been a busy bee...and I must say that I love the George Henry paintings very much...I only knew some of his Japanese Geisha/girl paintings. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Aren't they wonderful!
    Happy you enjoyed them. :)

  3. I am related to Anna Lea Merritt and am thrilled to see this. Only learned about her this year. I happen to be an Artist and Muralist living in Oakland, CA. Visit

  4. Is the portrait of the Countess of Dundonald still about? :-)