(COLUMBUS)–A new exhibit that profiles the life and work of artist Lilly Martin Spencer is now open at the Ohio History Center. In Power of Painting: Lilly Martin Spencer,
visitors will see captivating work from one of America’s most famous genre painters.
Making a career as an artist in the mid-1800s United States was difficult. Making a career as an artist in the mid-1800s as a woman was nearly impossible. Female artists faced harsh criticism from art critics, fellow artists and the general public. Despite these obstacles, Lilly Martin Spencer (1822-1902) supported her husband and thirteen children by selling her paintings, lithographs and sketches.
Beginning as a young girl painting on the walls of her parents’ home in Marietta, Ohio, Spencer’s growing art career took her from her hometown to Cincinnati, Ohio, and eventually, New York City. She became one of the most famous painters in the 1800s through her scenes of home life and, most notably, her masterpiece, Shake Hands?
Lilly Martin Spencer grew into a business-minded artist, which gave her family financial stability and cemented her place in American art history. An active painter until her death in 1902, Spencer’s artwork continues to connect to modern audiences.
For Spencer, painting was more than just depicting scenes of everyday life. By using symbols of goodness and comic relief, she wanted her pieces to be inspirational and counteract the evil she felt existed in the world. In an 1842 letter, she explained, “I want to try to make all my paintings have a tendency towards moral improvement as far as it is in the power of painting…”
See Power of Painting: Lilly Martin Spencer
at the Ohio History Center’s third floor Library Lobby until Aug. 14, 2016. The Ohio History Center is located at 800 E. 17th
Ave. in Columbus. For more information, call 800.686.6124 or visit ohiohistory.org.