Julie Hart Beers (1835–1913)
A New Jersey woman known for painting landscapes along the Hudson River
By Alexandra A. Jopp
Julie Hart Beers Kempson is regarded as among the best and perhaps the only woman artist of nineteenth-century America to specialize in landscapes.
VII. Suggested Resources
Julie Hart Beers Kempson, a painter of the Hudson River School, was one of very few professional women landscape painters in nineteenth-century America and the only one to achieve any renown. Born Julie Hart in Pittsfield, Mass., in 1835, she was the daughter of Scottish immigrants who had settled in Albany, N.Y., in 1831. Her two older brothers, James and William, were both painters, with James studying art in Europe, primarily Germany, from 1850 until 1853, and William studying for several years in Great Britain. Julie’s artistic education was not recorded, but it is often assumed that she was trained by her brothers and later by her first husband, painter Marion Beers. In the 1850s, William, James and Julie (with Marion) each moved separately to New York City. A year after Marion’s death in 1876, Julie married Peter Kempson and moved to Metuchen, N.J; however, she continued to use the last name “Beers” and sign her works as “Julie H. Beers.”
Beers’ first recorded exhibition was at the National Academy of Design (NAD) in 1867. Her works were included in the NAD annual exhibitions in twelve of the years between 1867 and 1885. She exhibited at the Boston Athenaeum in 1867 and 1868 and at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in 1868.
While Beers’ brothers have generally received more recognition by art historians, Mark Sullivan, in James M. and William Hart, American Landscape Painters, quotes a publication’s comment that her “few known landscapes are competent work not unlike that of her brothers.” She is known for several paintings, including Lake George; Forest Interiors; Cattle Watering in a River and the 1888 still-life Oranges. William Gerdts observed in his exhibition catalog, Women Artists of America, 1707-1964, that “Mrs. Julie Hart Beers Kempson became the only woman artist of the century to specialize in landscape.” That she was a rarity is easily explained, Gerdts wrote: “It is perhaps not surprising to find so few women landscapists, since the rigors of painting outdoors and the unseemliness of women engaging in this activity during the Victorian era acted as a deterrent.”
Julie Hart Beers Kempson demonstrated that women landscape painters were the equal of men, even given the “rigors of painting outdoors.” While largely unappreciated in her own time, her talent and dedication not only produced outstanding works of art, but also broke important ground for the female landscapists who would follow her.
1835 Born in Pittsfield, Mass.
1867 Exhibited at the National Academy of Design
1867–8 Exhibited at the Boston Athenaeum
1868 Exhibited at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts
1888 Painted Oranges in New Orleans
1913 Died in Trenton
Oberlin College, Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin, Ohio
The Sellars Collection
1867 National Academy of Design, New York
1867–8 Boston Athenaeum
1868 Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia
1965 The Newark Museum
National Association of Women Artists
New York Society of Women Artists
Women Painters of Washington
Detroit Society of Women Painters and Sculptors
1. Paul E. Sternberg, Sr., Art by American Women: Selections from the Collection of Louise and Alan Sellars. (Gainesville, Ga.: Brenau College, 1991), 20.
2. William H. Gerdts, Women Artists of America 1707-1964 (Newark, N.J.: Newark Museum, 1965), 8.
VII. Suggested Resources
Gerdts, William H. Women Artists of America 1707-1964. Newark, N.J.: Newark Museum, 1965.
Morgan, Ann Lee. The Oxford Dictionary of American Art and Artists. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2007.
Sternberg, Sr., Paul E. Art by American Women: Selections from the Collection of Louise and Alan Sellars. Gainesville, Ga.: Brenau College, 1991.