Join us for a book talk with author Katherine Manthorne as she discusses her latest book, Fidelia Bridges: Nature into Art. This biography provides the first comprehensive written account of Fidelia Bridges’ life as the best-selling female artist in post-Civil War America. The book celebrates her success across a broad range of endeavors, from her work as a watercolorist to a greeting card creator and nature conservator.
About the Book, Fidelia Bridges: Nature into Art:
Fidelia Bridges (1834-1923) painted pictures that critics praised for their ability to exude the fragrance of field flowers and glow with the plumage of birds. Raised in Salem and long residing in Connecticut, she maintained a studio in New York City, where she exhibited her art for over forty years at the National Academy, American Watercolor Society and other prestigious venues. Transforming flower painting from a domestic outlet for female amateurs to a marketable commodity for professionals, she never wavered in her conviction that women had the right to shape independent careers on their own terms. She delineated both cultivated flowers and clumps of weeds with an intensity of focus unmatched by any other artist of her era. Often, she combined plants with local birds to convey a sophisticated understanding of their environmental interaction that encouraged others to appreciate and conserve nature. She made an extended European tour in the 1860s and regular trips to Great Britain in later years but preferred home nature. Assembling a cross-section of her stunning oil paintings, watercolors, chromolithographs and illustrated volumes for the first time, and analyzing them against letters, diaries and periodical reviews, Fidelia Bridges combines a recovery of the artist’s biography with close readings of her artworks. Living an outwardly conventional life, she embraced the bicycle and later the automobile as vehicles of female liberation, cultivated her garden with the skill of a horticulturalist, and left a lasting pictorial legacy to be found in US public museums and private collections nationwide.
For those interested in purchasing a copy of Fidelia Bridges: Nature into Art, please call our Museum Shop to place a copy on hold! The Museum Shop can be reached at 518 463 4478 x 459.
About the Author, Katherine Manthorne:
Katherine Manthorne is on the art history faculty at the Graduate Center of City University of New York and prior to that she was Director of the Research Center at Smithsonian's American Art Museum. The winner of numerous fellowships and awards, she recently published a new book Fidelia Bridges: Nature into Art (Lund Humphries, 2023). Prior to that she explored 19th century female artists in two volumes: Women in the Dark: American Female Photographers 1850-1900 (Schiffer Publishing, 2020) and Restless Enterprise: The Art and Life of Eliza Pratt Greatorex (U. of California Press, 2020). She lives in New York City and the Champlain Valley with her husband James Lancel McElhinney and their cat Maeve.
Sponsored by a Humanities New York Vision/Action Grant.