Emmet, Lydia Field-American Artist

A ink and wash painting by Lydia Field Emmet. image courtesy of Illustration House, Inc.

p4A ItemID B171380
A pastel on canvas painting of sisters by Lydia Field Emmet

p4A ItemID C211895
A pastel on canvas painting by Katherine Sherwood, Branch of Camelias

p4A ItemID D9878345

Lydia Field Emmet (1866-1952)

Portraitist Lydia Emmet is especially known for her juvenile subjects. Born in New Rochelle, New York, she was one of ten children. Emmet learned to draw informally by herself in spite of the painting traditions of her family. At eighteen, she traveled to Paris with her sister, Rosina Emmet Sherwood, and studied at the Julian Academy. On her return, she worked as an illustrator of books and magazines, experimented with watercolors and oil landscapes, and did miniature and pastel portraits. She studied at the Art Students League; with William Chase at Shinnecock Hills on Long Island and with H.S. Mowbray, Kenyon Cox, and Robert Reid.

Along with Mary Cassatt and others, she was invited to paint murals in the Womens Building at the Worlds Fair Columbian Exhibition in 1893; she also designed stained glass windows for Tiffany & Co., and did illustrations for Harpers magazine. When she had accumulated $800.00, she again went abroad. She traveled with three other young women, rented a studio, and received instruction from Frederick MacMonnies. It is from him that Lydia Emmet derived her best training, but she also studied with Raphael Collin, William Bouguereau, and Tony-Robert Fleury.

In New York, she resumed portraiture in pastel, still hesitating to tackle a portrait order in oils because she did not feel that she could count on the result. Lydia was forced to fulfill a pressing portrait commission on regular canvas, in oils, when her source for special pastel canvases became unavailable. The two portrait subjects, the young daughters of Mrs. Meeker of Chicago, were a success, and Lydia Emmet’s career in oils had been born. Her sense of beauty in children made her especially known for juvenile portraits, but she also painted numerous men and women. Her method was direct and broad. Her drawings were sure, and her originality in composing her pictures were striking and never forced.

Her New York apartment had the atmosphere of an old-fashioned house, with a generous library and a conservatory of plants and flowers. “I am more impressed,” she once said, “the more people I meet and the better I know them, with how utterly each person is unlike every other individual in the world”, a freshness of attitude invaluable in a painter of portraits. Her works can be viewed at the New York Historical Society, Parrish Art Museum, Southampton, New York, Groton School, Groton, Massachusetts, National Academy of Design, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, among many others.

*Literature: Hoppin, Martha J. THE EMMETS: A FAMILY OF WOMAN PAINTERS. Pittsfield, MA: The Berkshire Museum, 1982.

Information courtesy of Charlton Hall Galleries

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