Sailboats, Peconic Bay by Edith Mitchill Prellwitz
oil on canvas 21" x 26" c1910-1929
Lately I seem to be fascinated by women artists who came of age during the Gilded Age. Edith Mitchill Prellwitz was one. The daughter of a successful businessman and his society wife, she grew up in Victorian comfort in South Orange, New Jersey. At 18, she took the grand tour of Europe which included Florence, Rome, Paris and London. Upon her return in 1883, she began studies at the Art Students League. Her teachers there; George de Forest Brush, William Merritt Chase, Walter Shirlaw and Kenyon Cox to name a few. Edith plunged into her studies including the first life study class (painting the nude model) offered to women. She was actively involved in the life of the school, and was elected Women's Vice President of the League in 1888. She also founded the Woman's Art Club which evolved into the National Association of Women's Artists which exists today.
Edith in her studio in New York City, c1890
photograph courtesy Wendy Prellwitz
Parrish Art Museum Collection via
In 1889 Edith travelled to Paris to study at the Acadèmie Julien for 18 months. Upon her return to Manhattan, she rented a studio in the Holbein Studio Building. Her future husband, artist Henry Prellwitz would have his studio across the hall. Edith may have met Henry at the Art Students League, but it was at the Holbein Studio that they became close. Edith was serious about her painting career and did not give Henry an easy time of it. She wrote, "I will not be a dabbler. I cannot and care not to marry. I would rather die than live long in this humdrum way."
The Book and the Rose by Edith Prellwitz 1896
oil on canvas 54 1/2" x 31 1/2"
Henry did not give up and promised to promote Edith's career along with his own. Edith and Henry marry in 1894.
Swimmers by Henry Prellwitz c1893
oil on canvas 18" x 22"
Edith and Henry and their son Edwin were lured to the North shore of Peconic Bay in 1899 by their artist friends Irving Ramsay Wiles and Edward August Bell. They became full time residents in 1913. They set up side by side studios at their home which they christened High House because of its perch overlooking the bay beach.
East Wind (also known as The Bathers) by Edith Mitchill Prellwitz
oil on canvas 36" x 27" c1922
Entrance to Peconic by Edith Mitchill Prellwitz 1902
oil on canvas 27" x 36"
Parrish Art Museum Collection
Henry and Edith Prellwitz c1890s
Edith and Henry lived a happy life painting side by side en plein air and in their studios overlooking Peconic Bay. Henry's stewardship of Edith's inheritance kept them fed and in paint supplies. They painted what pleased them and lived life at the beach. After their deaths in the 1940s, the artists were more or less forgotten until curator Ron Pisano visited High House in 1981 and was given a tour by the couple's grandson Sam and a glimpse of over 300 paintings. Museum and gallery exhibitions followed.
The Open Door by Edith Prellwitz (1915-1920)
oil on canvas 22" x 27"
Peconic Artist Colony, 1912
Indian Neck Lane, Peconic
photograph includes Irving Ramsey Wiles, Edward A. Bell, Edith Prellwitz, Henry Prellwitz
Edith Prellwitz self portrait, 1909
National Academy of Design image via
The Love of Art and Place: The Prellwitz Family of Peconic by Sara Evans, Fine Art Connoisseur here
Painters of Peconic Edith Prellwitz and Henry Prellwitz by Spanierman Gallery here
A New Glimpse of the Heyday of the Peconic Art Colony by Marjorie Kaufman, NY Times here
Edith Mitchill Prellwitz by Chelsea DeLay, Questroyal here
Edith Mitchell Prellwitz works listed by the Atheneum here