As you avid readers know, Art HERstory is all about shining light on the ladies who have dominated the art scene throughout history. Whether its painting, sculpting, sketching, or fashion design, these chicks have been kicking ass and taking names. This week’s leading lady is another contributor to female art history. Although Rolinda Sharples was born in Bath, England, she’s recognized as the first American female painter.
The entire Sharples family was artistically inclined. Rolinda joined the family entered the family in 1793. The clan decided to relocate and chose America as their destination. Rolinda was one year of age when they moved. At the age of ten the encouragement began. Rolinda was taught to draw and was paid small amounts of money by her mother to draw. A form of financial positive reinforcement to make Rolinda continue to pursue are. By the time she was 13, Rolinda was contributing to the family art business.
After her father’s death in 1811, the Sharples moved back to Bristol. Once settled Rolinda’s artistic forte went from paint small portraits, and began to earn her living by painting oil portraits and contemporary paintings that featured groups of people. One of Rolinda’s favorite subjects to paint was her mother Ellen. In 1913 Rolinda painted a life-size portrait of her mother. There is even a portrait of the mother/daughter duo together. Rolinda had to be talented to paint a picture of herself alongside her mother.
Rolinda painted for the majority of her life. I guess you could say it was in her blood. Despite the countless projects Rolinda’s fingers constructed, her most recognizable work was created in 1817. “The Cloakroom, Clifton Assembly Rooms, 1817” is an image we’ve all seen. It has been used on the cover of Jane Austen novels and we’ve all read (or at least seen) those!
Rolinda dedicated her life to her craft. She gained recognition in 1827 when she was elected as an honorary member of the Society of British Arts. She was one of the first female artists to paint multi-figure pictures. Her paintings were exhibited in Bristol, Leeds, Birmingham, and Carlisle. Many of her paintings are housed in the Bristol City Museum & Art Gallery. Rolinda lived with her mother until she lost her battle with Breast Cancer in 1838.
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