Artist. She was one of the most successful portrait painters of her era. Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, after her mother’s death and father’s desertion, she and her sister were raised by their maternal grandmother and aunts, accomplished musicians, artists and seamstresses. They exposed Beaux, known as Leilie, to a variety of artistic influences during her childhood. In 1871 at age sixteen, she started art lessons with Catherine Ann Drinker, 14 years her senior, a distant relative and accomplished artist. Taking the advice of her tutor, she continue her art training at Philadelphia’s Van der Wielen School; while there she learned the rudimentary skills of being an artist. At the age of 18, she assumed her mother’s name Cecilia, and began her professional life as an art teacher and commercial artist. Her first position was as Catherine Drinker's replacement as the drawing instructor. On the strength of her first published work, "The Brighton Cats" (1874), she was hired to make lithographic drawings of fossils for paleontologist Edward Drinker Cope working on the United States Geological Survey. By the end of the 1870s in her mid-20s, Cecilia Beaux was exhibiting her work at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and elsewhere, leading to her first notable success, the exhibition of "Les derniers jours d’enfance" – The Last Days of Childhood – in 1885. After nearly two years of study in Paris, France at the Académie Julian, Cecilia Beaux returned to the United States and challenged John Singer Sargent and a handful of others who dominated the international celebrity portrait market. She exhibited widely and had several solo shows in New York City, New York and elsewhere. As the first woman with a regular faculty appointment at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, she taught portrait painting and drawing there for twenty years. Cecilia Beaux stayed unmarried and childless for the duration of her life. In 1933, Eleanor Roosevelt honored Beaux as “one of the American women who had made the greatest contribution to the culture of the world.” Both Cecilia and Mary Cassatt, 11 years her senior, were at the same time declared “The greatest woman painter” during their careers. In fact, they were bitter rivals. In 1942, Cecilia Beaux died at the age of 87, and was buried in the Henry Sturgis Drinker family plot of West Laurel Hill Cemetery, Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania.
Bio by: Joe Lex