Sunday, May 6, 2012

Women's Worlds, the Art and Life of Mary Ellen Best 1809-1891 by Caroline Davidson

Self portrait of the artist
I stumbled upon this book when I was searching for representations of early 19th century interiors in art.  If your home was built in the first half of the 19th century, this book is a gold mine!  Mary Ellen Best was an English artist who lived from 1809-1891.  This book shows 140 full color pictures of her paintings of domestic interiors and streetscapes.  Many of the interiors are middle to upper class homes, while some have more humble origins.

Note the slipcovers and pillows on the sofa


Ms. Best slavishly copies the details of the wallpaper, carpets, artwork, drapery and even china in the houses of her friends and relatives or of the hotels that she stayed at when traveling.  Some of my favorite paintings showed the kitchens, from homey English ones to the squeaky clean kitchens of the Netherlands.  No detail escapes her notice - right down to the table settings and crumb cloths.

The author, Caroline Davidson, follows Ms. Best chronologically through her life and many travels. She enriches the illustrations with commentary about the artist's life as well as the details that are to be found in the watercolors.

Women's Worlds, The Art and Life of Mary Ellen Best 1809-1891, Caroline Davidson, Crown Publishers, Inc., New York c. 1985

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