Mae Bennett Brown (1887-1973) was a prolific working woman artist, known for her still-life paintings of luscious flowers and fruit. Recently, I acquired one of the biggest paintings of hers that I’ve ever seen, a glowing depiction of a bottle of wine surrounded by fruit, almost 3 feet in length.
Although Mae Bennett Brown (who sometimes hyphenated her last name) was a very busy working artist, with dozens of paintings easily searchable on a quick Google Image Search, very little has been written about her life and practices as an artist. Most of her identified paintings are exuberant, decorative floral still lives, just bursting with color.
We know very little about her life, but there are a few hints available. She was born in Nottingham, England and immigrated to the United States, where she settled in the Rockport, Massachusetts area. She was a very early member of the famed Rockport Art Association, which was founded in 1921. She made several crossings of the Atlantic Ocean, on ships with names like The Arabic and The Bohemian. On her first recorded ocean crossing she was 26 years old, in October of 1913, and she identifies herself as an artist on the passenger lists. Her subsequent recorded trips across “the pond” continue until the last recorded one in 1958, when she identifies herself as an “art teacher” for the passenger list manifest. It appears that she remained single her whole life, dedicating herself to her art and friends. She was clearly inspired by the ocean, and some of her work depicts crashing waves on the shore, or quiet scenes on the dock.
She also did the occasional landscape, like the following stunning example that I was lucky enough to find.
It’s still easy to find examples of her work available for low prices at auctions all across the country. A great place to keep an eye on the value of her work is askart.com. Her highest auction price on record is about $2,000 for a floral still life, but her beautiful paintings can also be found for around $100, like the following one that I recently purchased.
There are passionate collectors of her work out there, and I’m eager to collect more information about this early to mid-century woman artist, so that her work can be more appreciated. I’ve started a public profile of Mae Bennett Brown on ancestry.com to help others eager to learn more about her, or who are able to contribute anecdotes and images of her work. It would be wonderful if we could find a photograph of the artist herself, or find out more about her studio space and work habits. There are a few anecdotes on the ancestry.com boards by people who actually met her, one of whom posed as a model for her Saturday art classes. Apparently, Mae Bennett Brown also did commissioned portraits of pets and people, although I have yet to see one. Please do drop me an email or message if you know more about this artist, who has been hiding in public for decades.