Lilly Martin Spencer

Gallery: Centuries of Change
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The life of Lilly Martin Spencer, one of the first successful female artists in America, was quite different than the images of domesticity she portrayed.


'First Stew' painting

'First Stew' painting

"First Stew" is an example of the domestic genre paintings produced by Lilly Martin Spencer (1822-1902) in the second half of the nineteenth century. It shows a young, seemingly distressed woman, perhaps newly married, preparing a stew in what is presumably a Victorian kitchen. The painting is 15" x 18" (38.10 x 45.72 cm), and is a part of the Ohio Historical Society fine art collection. Lilly Martin was born in England. Her family settled near Marietta when she was eight years old. She studied with Sala Bosworth and Charles Sullivan, both prominent Marietta artists. After seeing an exhibition of her works in 1841, art patron Nicholas Longworth helped to arrange further training in Cincinnati where she studied with Henry Beard and John Insco. She married Benjamin Spencer in 1844; he worked as her business manager so that she could devote herself to her painting, which was the family's major source of income. | Source: View File Details Page

Lilly Martin Spencer self portrait

Lilly Martin Spencer self portrait

Self-portrait of artist Lilly Martin Spencer (1822-1902), created ca. 1842. The painting is part of the Ohio Historical Society fine art collection. Spencer was born in England and raised in Marietta, Ohio. She received art training in Marietta and Cincinnati, Ohio, before moving to New York in 1844. Spencer was known for her domestic genre scenes. Her original art inspired mass-produced lithographs, which appealed to women's sensibilities regarding domestic life in the second half of the 19th century. | Source: View File Details Page


The Young Wife

Emily Lang, History Curator, discusses "The Young Wife", a painting by Lilly Martin Spencer, and how it exemplifies the work for which Spencer was best known. View File Details Page

The Dichotomy of Lilly Martin Spencer

As the first female artist of notable success in America, Lilly Martin Spencer's personal life was very different from the familiar, domestic scenes in her paintings. View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

“Lilly Martin Spencer,” Ohio History Center, accessed January 19, 2019,

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