Maria Oakey Dewing and her husband Thomas Wilmer Dewing were both American Impressionist painters. Both are represented in The Artist’s Garden.
Certain of Thomas Wilmer Dewing’s paintings have a dreamy, otherworldly quality that I find quite intriguing. These particular works often feature lovely young women moving languorously through a pastoral landscape.
In an essay in The Artist’s Garden, James Glisson, makes the following observations about the work of William Merritt Chase and Charles Courtney Curran:
What sets Chase’s and Curran’s work apart from much of the work in this exhibition is not that they depict women being looked at…but that movement and, therefore, time has entered the garden. They do not picture sempiternal moments of perfect efflorescence, like Philip Leslie Hale’s The Crimson Rambler [pictured above on the book cover] or winter senescence, like John Henry Twachtman’s winter landscape Snowbound….
I especially like that part about time entering the garden, and I think it applies equally to the paintings of Thomas Wilmer Dewing.
(I think you’ll agree that this writer must have aced every vocabulary test he ever took!)
Here is a portrait by Thomas Wilmer Dewing of his wife, Maria Oakey Dewing.
Born in New York City in 1845, Maria Richards Oakey came from a cultured family. At first, she thought she would be a writer, but by the age of seventeen knew that her chief desire was to paint. Her specialty was the depiction of flowers.
In her day, Maria Oakey Dewing became quite well known and appreciated. But she had her struggles:
Despite the success, her career held disappointment. As the wife of one of the most prominent figure painters of the day, she felt unable to compete with her husband, substituting her flower painting for the figure compositions she had exhibited in her student days. At the end of her life, Dewing expressed doubt in her accomplishments and regret for what she had given up: “I have hardly touched any achievement,” she wrote in a letter the year she died. “I dreamed of groups and figures in big landscapes and I still see them.”
There’s an interesting piece on Dewing on an excellent art site which I only just discovered, called Art Inconnu (Unknown Art). In commenter Jane Librizzi’s view, “There is something unutterably sad about the career of Maria Oakey Dewing.” (To read the entire article and comments, click here.)
Maria Oakey Dewing’s essay “Flowers Painters and What the Flower Offers to Art” appeared in the journal Art and Progress in June of 1915.