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Anna Perry Smith

Marble Surface

Life

The story of Anna Perry Smith (1846-1932) tells of perseverance and passion in the face of adversity. For her entire life, Anna suffered from an unknown illness. At one point, she was bedridden for five years straight. She even attended an all women’s college for some time, but was unable to graduate due to her poor health. Yet she did not let this stop her from becoming a painter. 

 

While much of Anna’s personal life remains a mystery, one of her biggest passions was art. Around the age of 30, Anna moved to Chicago and began taking painting lessons. There, she launched her career as a full-time artist. Even during this time, Anna frequently fell ill and doctors feared for her life. Miraculously, Anna conquered her illness and by the 1900s, she had opened an art studio in Muskegon. Inspired by the scenery of the Tri-Cities area, Anna primarily painted landscapes. During the summers, Anna would rent a cottage in Grand Haven and sell her art to the wealthy patrons vacationing on the lakeshore. 

Anna Perry Smith (1846-1932)

Untitled, ca. late 19th-century

Oil on canvas

2000.11.2

IMG_0967_edited.jpg
Marble Surface

Style

Anna’s artworks resonate with the ideals of the Hudson River School, a group of New York based painters during the mid-19th century. The Hudson River School artists were inspired by the beautiful American landscape and the divine power of nature. While many of the Hudson River School painters showcased the monumentality of cascading waterfalls and towering mountain ranges, Anna found the spirit of nature in the quiet woodlands of the Tri-Cities area. Additionally, Anna’s style diverged from the realism of other 19th century American landscape painters. Her loose, airy brushstrokes not only reveal the various textures of the landscape, but also give off a hazy, dream-like effect.  Makes her paintings more expressive.

Anna likely painted en plein air, which could also explain her loose brushstrokes as she was working fast to capture the essence of nature before it turned dark. While photography did exist at this time, cameras were not used by artists to snap shots and bring back home to use as reference materials. 

Anna Perry Smith (1846-1932)

Untitled, ca. late 19th-century

Oil on canvas

2000.11.2

IMG_0968 (2)_edited_edited.jpg
Florence Baker
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