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Elizabeth Tyler Stevens (19th-20th Century)

Elizabeth Tyler Stevens was one of three daughters of Augustus Ervin Stevens, a prominent merchant and Mayor of Portland, Maine, and his first wife, Jane Tyler of Portland. Augustus Stevens was related to Paul Revere, and named one of Elizabeth’s two brothers after the patriot. Elizabeth Stevens lived in Hartford, Connecticut and was a member of the Art Society of Hartford (now the Hartford Art School, part of the University of Hartford). The Art Society had been formed in 1877 by Candace Wheeler, inspired by the British Aesthetic Movement exhibit at the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, as a vehicle for helping single women to achieve respectable means of livelihood in the aftermath of the Civil War. Founders of the all-female-run Society included: Elizabeth Colt, owner of Colt Patent Firearms Manufacturing Company, who became the Hartford Art Society’s first president; author Harriet Beecher Stowe; Olivia Clemens, wife of Mark Twain; Susan Warner, wife of Charles Dudley Warner of The Hartford Courant; and Mary Bushnell Cheney, wife of Frank Cheney of Cheney Silk Mills. Unlike other versions of this creative social experiment–in Chicago, St. Louis, Detroit, Troy (New York), and Charleston–the Hartford Art Society admitted both male and female students. Among the teachers at the school were painters James Wells Champney, William Merritt Chase, and Dawson Dawson-Watson. Mark Twain made benefit appearances, and art exhibitions and public lectures on art and art history for which admission was charged also helped to raise funds for the operation of the Art Society’s school. Stevens was a member of the vibrant art community flourishing in and around Hartford at the time, which included such artists as: Walter Griffin; William Gedney Bunce; Allen Butler Talcott; and Charles Noel Flagg (who painted a portrait of Mark Twain in 1890). Perhaps due, in part, to the influence of the Art Society, the number of professional artists in the city doubled in 1879.

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