Maria Richards Oakey Dewing

October 1, 2017

American Painter Maria Richards Oakey was born on October 27, 1845 in New York City.  Although she originally grappled with the choice of pursuing writing or painting when she was a young adult, Maria eventually chose to study at the Cooper Union School of Design for Women in New York City where she learned to paint in oil and watercolor. After her time at the Cooper Union, she went on to study art for another four years at the National Academy of Design, also in New York City.  In 1875 Oakey joined fellow Academy students in establishing the Art Students League, which provided a cosmopolitan and progressive alternative to studying art compared to the traditionalism offered at the Academy.

A Bed of Poppies by Maria Oakey Dewing, 1909. Oil on canvas. Addison Gallery of American Art.

During the summers of 1872 and 1873 Oakey took informal outdoor painting lessons from the noted stained glass designer John La Farge.  In 1876, Oakey traveled to Europe to became a pupil of Thomas Couture, with whom La Farge had studied in the 1850s.

In April 1881, after her return to the United States, Oakey married Thomas Wilmer Dewing, an American painter from Boston who the previous year had opened a studio in New York City.

Maria and Thomas both found great inspiration in the gardens of their summer home in Cornish, New Hampshire.  To this day, Maria Oakey’s legacy remains her paintings of flowers which she painted outdoors – a technique she likely learned from La Farge.

Garden in May by Maria Oakey Dewing, 1895, Oil, Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Examples of her talent exist in museums throughout the United States.  The Smithsonian American Art Museum has in their collection Garden in May (1895).  Meanwhile, A Bed of Poppies, 1909, is at the Addison Gallery of American Art.

Maria Oakey Dewing (1845 – 1927) is buried in Lot # 5696 on Vinca Path with her husband, artist Thomas Wilmer Dewing.


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