By Caitlin Cummings
This week, Historic Huguenot Street is focusing on a painting that was created by local Hudson Valley artist Julia McEntee Dillon in the late 19th century. The painting, executed in oil on canvas, is 34.5 inches wide and 26 inches tall, and sits within a 2 inch gilded wood frame. This still life depicts a delicate arrangement of fresh flowers in a woven basket; the white buds of Queen Anne’s lace and the pink & purple petals of mountain-laurel emerge as the dominant hues of color among an otherwise dark background. Dillon created dozens of these floral paintings throughout the latter part of her life, and they are now revered as the trademark of her artistic career. This exemplary painting was donated to Historic Huguenot Street by Elizabeth Winne Sutro in 1965 and now hangs in the dining room of the Deyo House.
Julia was the oldest daughter of Charles McEntee and Christina Tremper, and was born in Kingston, NY, in 1834. Throughout her teenage years, Julia studied at the Clinton Liberal Institute where she met art teachers Mary Conkey and Sarah Hutchins who encouraged her drawing talents. Julia returned to her hometown in her early twenties, and married Kingston native John Dillon in 1866. In 1872, at the age of thirty-eight, Julia Dillon was able to study painting in Paris and spend time working alongside her cousin Jervis McEntee in his studio (Jervis was an accomplished Hudson River School painter at the time). Only seven years after their marriage, Julia’s husband died in 1873, and she became compelled to stay in the Rondout area in order to take care of his business (the McEntee and Dillon Rondout Foundry). Dillon’s career blossomed in 1876 when she was featured in a series of exhibitions at the National Academy of Design in New York City. For the next ten years, Dillon situated herself permanently in NYC, setting up a studio on East 10th street. Fellow female painters and young students alike visited the studio often. Around 1885, Dillon returned to Paris where she studied under the English genre painter Harry Thompson, and the French floral painter Georges Jeannin. Throughout the last decade of the nineteenth century, Dillon emerged as a successful painter in her own right, and her work was exhibited in shows at the Columbia Exhibition in Chicago, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art, and the Brooklyn Art Association (just to name a few).
In 1893, Dillon returned to Kingston where she continued to exhibit her work and teach locally. She became very involved in community projects, helping to establish the Kingston City Hospital, the Kingston Library, and the Ulster Garden Club. She was also a member of D.A.R. (Daughters of the American Revolution) and the State Aid Charity Association. In addition, Dillon was heavily involved in the local literary group, “The Monday Club,” and even published a book in 1915 entitled Old Gardens of Kingston. Dillon’s sincere attachment to her hometown and her fascination with all things floral allow us to remember her as a key player in the Hudson Valley’s artistic community at the turn of the 20th century. Since her death in 1919, Julia Dillon’s impressive work has been commemorated by organizations including the Newark Museum, the Ulster County Historical Society, the Friends of Historic Kingston, the Ulster Garden Club, and now, Historic Huguenot Street as well.
You can see this painting by Dillon, and many others like it from the HHS Permanent Collection this Saturday, May 23, at Art & Wine of the Hudson River Valley. This art history tour will be led by local artist Kevin Cook and will take you through 3 of our historic houses in order to provide a comprehensive understanding of art in early America and the founders of the Hudson River School movement. To learn more about this upcoming event and others like it, head over to our Calendar of Events (be sure to act fast, spots for this event are limited!).
“Julia Dillon.” Ask Art. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 May 2015.
“Julia McEntee Dillon.” Jenkinstown Antiques. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 May 2015.