Austa Densmore Sturdevant, a little known American artist, lived from 1855 – 1936. Internet searches reveal only one of Sturdevant’s portraits of her father, so I am pleased to bring to you several of her other works, as I am lucky enough to know their owner. Her lovely portraits with creamy skin tones and her floral still lifes have remained in obscurity. A single catalog of her work was published in 1996 and is not available for sale. Unfortunately, with little light, about ten minutes, and a point-and-shoot digital camera, the image quality presented is quite poor. All of these canvases could use a good cleaning and re-stretching.
Pictured here is Catherine, the artist’s niece, and later the mother-in-law of the current owner. As a young woman, Catherine was “set up” by a friend to exchange letters with a young man who had been awarded the MBE, the lowest in the British Empire’s order of chivalry. The two continued to write and did not meet face to face until their wedding day. As the portrait’s owner says, “I think it’s romantic as hell!”
This grainy photograph is presented with pride, as the painting of Priscilla Densmore does not appear in the catalog of Sturdevant’s work.
Sturdevant’s father, Amos Densmore, along with his brother Emmett, invented the original commercial typewriter, the Densmore. She painted several of his portraits. Two of the first Densmore typewriters remain in existence: one is at the Smithsonian, the other is in this collection, along with several more of Sturdevant’s portraits and drawings. Not exactly art history, but vastly interesting.