Anna Richards Brewster
(Germantown, Pennsylvania, 1870 - 1952)
Artists have traditionally derived inspiration from travel. While some, such as Frederic Edwin Church, embarked on far-ranging and challenging excursions specifically for the purpose of recording what they found for the larger public, others based their art on trips undertaken primarily for pleasure or personal edification. Such compositions are visual documents of a more intimate, informal sort, addressing the interests of the artist rather than a perceived audience or market. Anna Richards Brewster—the wife of William Tenney Brewster, a professor of English at Barnard College—was one such recreational traveler, but she was also a trained artist who had enjoyed a professional career.
The daughter of a prominent marine painter, William Trost Richards (1833–1905), Anna began her instruction in art when she was a young child. She had learned to draw by the age of ten, and soon thereafter she was exhibiting her works in professional venues such as the National Academy of Design. Meanwhile, Mrs. Richards tutored Anna and her five siblings in literature, music, art, and other secondary-school subjects. Well rounded and intellectually stimulated by her upbringing, Anna pursued art training in Boston at the Cowles Art School, in New York at the Art Students League, and in Paris between 1890 and 1895. After living for nine years in England, where she worked as a professional painter and illustrator, she returned to the United States upon her marriage to Brewster in 1905. She spent the rest of her life in Scarsdale, New York. (1)
Although she stopped exhibiting her work after her marriage, Brewster continued to make art, using a variety of media, including oil, pastel, watercolor, and pen and ink. She depicted landscapes in rural Rhode Island, where she and her husband spent many summers. They also traveled extensively during Professor Brewster’s sabbaticals; destinations in Europe, Britain, and North Africa are duly recorded in Anna’s works of art. (2)
(1) Frederick Baekeland, "Roads Less Traveled: American Paintings, 1833–1935" (Ithaca, NY: Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University, 1998), p. 60.
(2) After his wife’s death, William Brewster privately published four volumes of the art she made during their travels and around their vacation home in Rhode Island (1954–60).