The End of a Romance, 1890
Antoinette de Coursey (1866-1925)
Oil on canvas
32” x 41”
36” x 45 ½” (framed)
Antoinette de Coursey was born in 1866 in Philadelphia to Samuel Gerald de Coursey (d.1903), from Baltimore and his wife, Elizabeth Barclay a descendent of an old banking and merchant family of Philadelphia and London. As a girl, she attended Miss Sanford’s School on Walnut Street and likely received drawing instruction there.
The world in which Antoinette inhabited in Philadelphia in the mid to late 19th century was one that encouraged the expansion and professionalization of art education for women. She attended the Pennsylvania Academy at least during the years 1888-1890 when she exhibited in the annual Academy exhibitions. This picture, The End of a Romance, was her submission for the year 1890.
During the years just prior to her enrollment in the Academy, the school was profoundly influenced by the innovative teacher, Thomas Eakins (1844-1916). During Eakins’ tenure, the Academy’s course of study was the most “liberal and advanced in the world” which included greater opportunities for female students to participate as equals. Eakins’ emphasized observation from nature, especially of the human form and led classes in anatomy, dissection and life classes for men and women. Termed a “radical” by a New York journalist, Eakins was eventually dismissed for removing the loincloths from male models in the female classroom. After his resignation, the Academy gradually returned to a more classical curriculum.
It is impossible not to speculate that Antoinette came under the influence of fellow Philadelphian, Cecelia Beaux who taught at Miss Sanford’s from 1873-1876 and attended the Philadelphia Academy between 1876-1879 and later taught there beginning in 1895. Beaux’s cousin, Catherine Drinker (1841-1922) was perhaps a stronger role model for de Coursey. After her appointment as the first female teacher at the Academy in 1878, Drinker also continued painting, winning an Academy prize for a romantic work entitled The Guitar Player in 1880. She travelled abroad with her husband and became noted for her translations of French novels and published her own works of literature.
In 1896 Antoinette de Coursey married Thomas Hamilton Hoge Patterson, the son of a prominent businessman and philanthropist from Philadelphia. After her marriage she became interested in writing verse and her professional life centered on literature, rather than painting. Her work was published in the leading magazines of the day, including Scribner’s, The Atlantic, Contemporary Verse and The London Academy. Some of her poems were collected and published under the title Quatrains and Sonnets in Philadelphia in 1913. She also was the author of a children’s book entitled Old Swedish Fairy Tales with Anna Wahlenberg published in the year of her death, 1925. She is buried at the Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia.
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