3Still Life

Emma Levinia Swan (1853-1927) Dean of Rhode Island Women Artists

Emma L. Swan, Pink Roses, oil on canvas 8" x 10"

Subject Matter:

Best known for still life, but did portraiture as well


Self-taught, 1 year under Abbott Thayer, studied abroad in Germany and Holland

Collections & publications:

Providence Art Club


Member of the Providence Art Club, Teacher at the Rhode Island School of Design

Art Friends:

E.C. Leavitt, Sarah J. Eddy


Swan was primarily a self-taught painter who went directly to nature for her knowledge and inspiration. She was born and raised in Providence and it was her father, a cameo cutter, who taught her in drawing. The young artist met with success almost immediately, opened a studio in Providence in 1880 at the age of 27 and was an early member of the Providence Art Club. She received numerous commissions and was financially independent in the painting profession.

Never shying away from the art world, Emma Swan exuded confidence both in person and on canvas. Her still life paintings of flowers have gentleness in both their colors and in the paint application. Swan uses clear and beautiful hues with a soft tone that captures the delicate nature of the flowers and fruits she portrays. Using multiple techniques, Swann sought reality on her canvas; her colors combined with the poise of her brushstroke invite the viewer into the painting, inviting the eye to move inward. The more details the viewers see, the more Swan herself is revealed. Read More

"May she stand by her colors. In the realm of art woman’s works have spoken for her to show that it is her legitimate domain… In the future artwork will be judged by its intrinsic merit, irrespective of the artist’s sex."- Sarah James Eddy (1851 - 1945)