Cecilia Beaux

A painting of a light-skinned adult woman gazing to her right against a brown background. Her brown hair is neatly pulled back and she wears a voluminous white top with puffy sleeves and a high brown collar. The top is rendered in thick brush strokes, while her face is finely detailed.

Cecilia Beaux, Self-Portrait, 1894, National Academy Museum, New York (67-P)

1855 to 1942

Born to Cecilia Kent Leavitt and Jean-Adolphe Beaux, the artist’s early life was shaped by her mother’s death, just 12 days after her birth. Beaux’s father returned to France, leaving Beaux and her older sister, Aimée, to be raised by relatives. Beaux’s early interest in art was encouraged at home and school.

By age 18, Beaux was earning her living through commercial art, making lithographs and painting on china while studying in Philadelphia. She completed her first medal-winning portrait in 1884. In 1888, after rejecting several marriage proposals, Beaux decided to devote herself to portraiture and studied in Europe for 19 months.

Back in Philadelphia, Beaux painted prominent writers, politicians, and other artists. For many years, she taught at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Beaux’s pictures were widely exhibited in the United States, as well as in Paris and London. She moved to New York in 1898 and also built a summer house in Gloucester, Massachusetts, which became a popular stopping point for her distinguished clientele.

Her reputation hit its peak during the 1930s when she received several major awards, including the Gold Medal at Exposition Universelle, Paris, in 1900; had two retrospective exhibitions; and published her autobiography. In 1933, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt presented Beaux with the Chi Omega fraternity’s gold medal, for the American woman who had made the greatest contribution to the culture of the world.

Artist Details

  • Name

    Cecilia Beaux
  • Birth

    Philadelphia, 1855
  • Death

    Gloucester, Massachusetts, 1942
  • Phonetic Spelling

    Seh-SEEL-yah boh