Robbins, Ellen, 1828-1905.; Painting, American -- 19th century.; Watercolor painting, American -- 19th century.; Flowers in art.; Women artists -- United States.;
Peonies by Ellen Robbins in watercolor. Watertown native, she also taught painting and established three art studios in Boston. Ellen Robbins was born in 1828 and lived on Pleasant Street near the dam by the Charles River. She was the youngest of seven children and describes herself as a "weakly" child for she was born with what she describes as a "lame foot". Her father died when she was two years old, leaving the family in financial difficulty. Ellen went to the School of Design on Summer Street in Boston. After spending a year there she studied at the Merrimac Printworks. She attempted to draw designs for the Pacific Mills in Watertown and the Manchester Printworks. Drawing designs for fabrics was something Ellen could not master. She decided to give up trying to design for fabrics and "paint pictures that would be attractive enough to find a sale." She began studying with Stephen Salisbury Tuckerman?s School of Design. At this point she had never painted a flower in water colors. When she left Mr. Tuckerman?s school she was "able to draw flowers with ease, and to color them." She was 20 years old. This led to a great demand for her as an instructor and she found herself giving lessons in private homes at $150 per session. At the urging of Margaret Foley, the sculptor, Ellen approached Mr. Doll of Soule?s store on Summer Street in Boston and asked if he would be interested in displaying and selling some of her flower paintings in his store. She then took a studio in the Lawrence Building on the corner of West and Tremont Streets, where she could teach classes in addition to keeping her private lessons. She, herself, began taking lessons in oil painting. She then moved on to the Isles of Shoals, Appledore, off the coast of New Hampshire, where she had spent several summers. She and poet/writer Celia Thaxter (another one-time Watertown resident who was married to her cousin Levi L. Thaxter) were friends. Flowers in Ms. Thaxter?s garden were the subject of many of Ellen?s paintings. Ellen Robbins died in 1905. Her cremated remains are buried in Common Street Cemetery.
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“White Peonies.,” Digital Commonwealth , accessed March 12, 2014, http://digitalcommonwealth.org/items/show/53869.