Alida Bevier: An Artist’s Career Representative of Social Change

By: Hannah Peterson

Hanging in the LeFevre House as part of a larger exhibit entitled “An Excellent Likeness” on Historic Huguenot Street is a portrait of a young blond-haired boy, around the age of 3, dressed in a white gown and lightly holding red flowers in his hands.  Realized by Alida Bevier, the portrait truly captures the youth and joy of the subject, as his expression and hand gestures seems only natural for a baby of his age. The depiction of the flowers, whose color deeply contrasts with the subtly patterned white dress and mirrors the background, are also greatly naturalistic as some are released from the boy’s grasp and fall into the boy’s lap while a few petals detach themselves from the stems.

This young boy is Louis S. Bevier, and his identity is tied to the history of New Paltz. Born in New Brunswick, New Jersey, in 1885, Louis, son of Dr. Louis Bevier – a PhD holder in language from Johns Hopkins University – is 8th in line of descent from Louis Bevier, original patentee of New Paltz. Although not born in the Hudson Valley, Louis remained attached to the area as he died in Woodstock in 1963 after a successful life, in which he was a graduate of Rutgers University – where his father Louis Bevier served as dean – and Columbia Law School, a practicing New York City lawyer for 40 years, and a World War I veteran.

Louis Bevier led an interesting life. However, my interest in the painting does not lie in its subject matter, but rather in the identity of the portraitist and Louis’ paternal aunt, Alida Bevier. Although there are not overwhelming sources concerning her life, Alida Bevier, who later became Alida Bevier Van Dyck following her marriage to Reverend Ezekiel Deyo Van Dyck in 1888, was the only one of five siblings to stay away from a teaching career. Instead, Alida followed an artistic path. As a young artist she gained popularity in the late 19th and early 20th century New York City art scenes, and was even included in Marquis’ publication of Who’s Who in America, an early 20th century journal series compiling short biographies of the people of the time. Alida’s success as an artist in New York City is telling of a time in which women were gaining greater and greater independence, and had begun infiltrating the art world, which had early in the 18th century been strictly reserved for men.

As the youngest child in her family, Alida must have looked up to her three older sisters and brother as she grew up. All four college graduates from various universities around the city such as Hunter College and Rutgers University, it must have felt natural for Alida to further her education. Contrary to her siblings, however, Alida had no interest in teaching, and consequently chose to deepen her knowledge of artistic practice by attending the National Academy of Design in New York City. There she learned to be a professional artist and took classes such as antique drawing and life classes – drawing from nude models – which were unofficially organized for women after 1857.

During her time in New York City, Alida won awards, such as the first prize for the “Drawing from the Antique” category of the 1881 Cooper Union Female Art School contest. Additionally, her work was discussed and exhibited in a number of locations such as the Art Chronicle, the Artist and Journal of Home Culture and exhibitions within the National Academy of Design. Alida’s involvement in the New York City art world was a new and still-developing possibility for women of the late 19th-century. Indeed, although the National Academy of Design prided itself on equal opportunity after its opening in 1825, women were not regularly admitted until 1846. The rules regarding female admission to art schools, was even stricter in Europe, however, where no women attended the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris or the Academy in Rome throughout the entire 19th century.

Despite the National Academy of Design’s mission to provide their students with a program based on the art, rather than a patron’s demands, there remained a strong disparity between the male and female artists. Indeed, antique classes for women only started in 1831, 6 years after the school’s initial opening, while anatomy and life drawing classes, considered foundational approaches to the instruction of art, were only available to women starting in the 1860s. In 1869, the Academy faced a severe financial crisis that “floundered the liberality go the Academicians.” Strikingly, the Academicians chose to mortgage their school’s building rather than realize the proposed merger with Cooper Union that would have allowed the Cooper Union’s 150 female art students to use the National Academy’s facilities.

Understanding this history of the National Design Academy and other art schools of the time, we realize that Alida Bevier’s career is not only impressive because she made a small name for herself in the New York art world, but also due to her career’s significance in the larger context and story of women and 19th-century art academies. Indeed, even though Alida may not have encountered as much resistance as her predecessors at the National Academy, Alida’s career, just as the careers of the Academy’s entire female student body – constituting a third of the student body by the 1870s – was the result of great social change in the US. In addition to bringing artists to work independently from the limiting demands of patrons as early as the 1830s, this social change also brought women to gain further independence by following a previously unattainable career path.

Sources:

The Artist and Journal of Home Culture, Volume VII. London: Wells Gardiner, Darton and Co, 1886.

Andre, Dale. The American Beviers. 2014.

Cooper, W. A. “The National Academy of Design.” Godey’s Magazine 130 (Jan, 1895): 583-589.

“American Art Chronicle.” The American Art Review 2 (Jun, 1881): 82-90.

History.”  National Academy Museum. New York.

Whitney Museum of Art, 19th Century American Women Artists. New York: Whitney Museum of Art, 1976.

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A Biblical Stu-Tea

By Emily Finan

This week’s object from our collection is a peculiar little teapot.  Received as a gift from Isabelle Bevier Cornell in 1989, this intricate teapot functions far beyond a task of  holding tea; it provides a lesson of biblical morality to its drinker, which demonstrates the contemporary values of American society at the time of its creation.

The teapot is approximately 7 inches in height, has a ten sided shape with a high inset lid and a flower head finial with high relief ornamentation on the spout and handle.  Its unique composition of yellow earthenware with a mottled brown, tortoiseshell glaze lends credibility to the supposition that it is a Rockingham ware piece. Rockingham ware is characterized as “highly fired earthenware or stoneware, generally with a buff to yellow paste and a brown mottled and streaked glaze, often characterized by patches of the vessel’s body showing through.” This distinct style did not originate in America, however, but is a product of England. The term itself is derived from the late 18th century as a way to describe a dark brown glaze created by potters in Yorkshire, England, working at the estate of the Marquis of Rockingham. The style emigrated to America with designers such as Edwin Bennett, who left East Liverpool in 1844 and moved to Birmingham, Pennsylvania with his three brothers, where he formed their company, E.&W. Bennett. It is highly likely that this teapot is a product of the E.&W. Bennett company because an identical teapot that also bears the same biblical iconography, resides in The Museum of Fine Arts in Houston. The matching teapot in Houston was modeled by Charles Coxon, who worked for E.&W. Bennett, which increases the likelihood that the piece we have here at Huguenot Street is a product of Coxon as well.  Although the glaze of the teapot is highly alluring, what is even more fascinating is the iconography represented and the symbolism it connotes.

The iconography represented on the teapot is the image of Rebekah at the Well, described in the Old Testament.  In the biblical account, Abraham sent a servant to find his son, Isaac, a suitable wife.  The servant came upon the beautiful virgin Rebekah gathering water at a well, as depicted on the teapot.  The servant was sure she was sent from God himself because she was both beautiful and generous, graciously giving the servant and his camels an abundant supply of water from the well. The moment depicted on the teapot of Rebekah gathering water at the well, is a curious image to depict on a household object.  The feminine association of the teapot, however, may provide insight to the decision to include such biblical imagery, while also revealing contemporary gender identity.

Strong gender identifications permeated the late nineteenth century American domestic sphere, specifically in the act of serving and consuming tea.  In virtually every representation of a tea party, women are shown as the pourers.  The act of pouring tea exemplifies the ways in which women were expected to serve men, which was conceived to be a “virtual extension of one’s womanhood.” It is, therefore, by no coincidence that the image of Rebekah at the Well would resonate well with contemporary religious women.  The presence of this biblical iconography would encourage women to reflect the “true womanhood”, exemplified by Rebekah, of “piety, purity, submissiveness and domesticity.” Through the act of pouring water and serving others, women could feel a connection to Rebekah, the ideal woman.  For example, “the woman at home serving liquid refreshments to others could pour from the teapot bearing the image of Rebekah, who also served liquid refreshment and who, representing submissiveness to God’s will and the needs of man- and also purity, being chosen by God- was the ultimate example of the True Woman.” The teapot’s biblical iconography is, thus, tremendously purposeful in perpetuating gender identity by encouraging women of this time to emulate the biblical iconography that equates womanhood with serving men.  The visual presence of the Rebekah teapot in the domestic space would function as a reminder to women to remain pious and maintain a religious home.  In this way, the furnishings within a home were thought to contribute to the religious well-being of the family, which is conveyed impeccably by Protestant theologian, Horace Bushell’s, statement that “religion never thoroughly penetrates life, til it becomes domestic.” Through the act of observing the Rebekah teapot, one gains insight into the deeply ingrained religious ideas and ideals of the late nineteenth century.  A seemingly banal teapot actually functions in a social role that is far more extensive than its utilitarian purpose; it serves to define contemporary gender roles and stratification through a biblical lens.  By portraying the image of a woman who presents ideal Christian morals on a frequently used object, one is able to see how objects themselves move beyond their original function and, through the use of purposeful ornamentation, lends insight to their contemporary world.

Sources:

Claney, Jane Perkins.  Rockingham Ware in American Culture, 1830-1930: Reading Historical Artifacts.  New Hampshire: University Press of New England, 2004.

’Fancy Rockingham’ Pottery: The Modeller and Ceramics in Nineteenth-Century America, September 9, 2004 to February 27, 2005.”  Trenton Potteries vol. 5, issue 2, June 2004.  Accessed April 5, 2017.

Goldberg, Arthur F.  “Highlights in the Development of the Rockingham and Yellow Ware Industry in the United States- A Brief Review with Representative Examples.”  Chipstone, 2003.  Accessed April 5, 2017.

Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum.  “Rockingham Ware.” Accessed April 5, 2017.

Strauss, Richard L.  “Talk to Me- The Story of Isaac and Rebekah.”  June 28, 2004.  Accessed April 5, 2017.

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.  “E. & W. Bennett Teapot.”  Accessed April 5, 2017.

“We wish to live with you in peace and love:” Hendrick Aupaumut’s Letter to the New York Legislature

By Carolyn Gordon

A few weeks ago, while volunteering to transcribe archives I saw a letter written about 1790 from an American Indian named Hendrick Aupaumut to the New York Legislature. I was fascinated, not just because he wrote it in English and I could read it, but also because it offered a glimpse into the struggles of indigenous people after the Revolution as we were establishing our democracy.

Hendrick Aupaumut was a member of the Stockbridge Munsee tribe and was probably descended from the Mohawk chief Hendrick. He, and many people from his tribe, fought in the Revolution where they served as scouts. Aupaumut was part of Captain William Goodrich’s company and rose to the rank of captain. He later fought in the War of 1812. He was educated by the Moravians, a Protestant sect, and in the 1790s became a leader of his tribe. In the letter, he pled for his tribe to be educated and integrated into our society. He advocated for his tribe to be educated in the protestant religion.  He states “we wish to imitate your ways of life – but is not in our power to do the suddenly.” Aupaumut saw a future for his tribe.

Aupaumut explains his frustration with the early Americans’ attitude toward the Stockbridge tribe. The Stockbridge was originally from the Housatonic River valley in Massachusetts. After the French and Indian war the Stockbridge-Makkecommak, an early spelling of the Mohican, tribe moved to north central New York by invitation of the Oneida Indians. Unfortunately, the Oneida land was sought after timber land. White settlers pressured the Stockbridge-Makkecommak and Oneidas to relocate to the Midwest shortly after the former’s arrival in New York. The tribes eventually settled in northern Wisconsin; where the Stockbridge joined with the Munsee tribe, who had also been relocated to the Midwest. Apaumut purpose was to persuade the lawmakers to protect American Indian rights to the land.

This letter was donated to Historic Huguenot Street by Mary Stokes-Jensen and Richard Stokes. It is suspected that Hendrick Aupaumut’s letter fell into the possession of Joseph Hasbrouck, who saved it. Joseph Hasbrouck was born March 3, 1743. He became a general in the Revolutionary war and served in a militia after the war. In 1777 he served supervisor of New Paltz; and 1791-1796 was a state legislator. He was buried on the farm of Joseph. L. Hasbrouck in Libertyville and was later was removed to New Paltz Rural Cemetery. He was in the senate around the same time that Aupaumut was leading his tribe, and the tribe was asked to leave the New York area. The letter was rediscovered and donated to HHS where it will be preserved in the archives. Thanks for reading!

Sources:

Aupaumut, Hendrick.” Aupaumut, Hendrick. Dartmouth College, n.d. Web. 16 Mar. 2017.

Hasbrouck Kenneth E, The Hasbrouck Family in America, Huguenot Society, 1952

Poucher, J Wilson. Terwilliger, Byron J. Old Gravestones of Ulster County New York. Ulster County Historical Society 1931.

Rindfleisch, Bryan. “The Stockbridge-Mohican Community, 1775-1783.” Journal of the American Revolution. Journal of the American Revolution, 28 Aug. 2016. Web. 23 Mar. 2017.

Stockbridge-Munsee History.” Stockbridge-Munsee History – Indian Country Wisconsin. Indian Country, n.d. Web. 16 Mar. 2017.

“Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohican Indians.” Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohican Indians, n.d. Web. 16 Mar. 2017.