Self Portrait of Cecilia Beaux

Cecilia Beaux


Artist Details

Birth Place
Death Place
Gloucester, Massachusetts
Phonetic Spelling
Seh-SEEL-yah boh
Decorative and utilitarian works; Drawings and prints; Painting
Places of Residence
New York City; Philadelphia
Académie Julian, Paris, 1888–89; Académie Colarossi, Paris, 1888–ca. 89; Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, 1877–79; Van der Wielen School of Art, Philadelphia, 1872–74
Retrospective Exhibitions

Cecilia Beaux: Portrait of an Artist, Philadelphia Civic Center Museum, Philadelphia, 1974–75; Exhibition of Paintings by Cecilia Beaux, American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York, 1935

NMWA Exhibitions

Preserving the Past, Securing the Future: Donations of Art, 1987–1997, 1997–98
Four Centuries of Women's Art: The National Museum of Women in the Arts, 1990–91
American Women Artists: 1830–1930, 1987

About the Artist

Sought-after portraitist Cecilia Beaux created paintings that were favorably compared with those of John Singer Sargent.

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.

National Museum of Women in the Arts