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Susan Catherine Moore Waters
American
(1823-1900)

Susan Catherine Moore Waters
Lighthouse on the Coast, oil on canvas,30.5 by 42 inches (image), 44.75 by 56.25 inches with frame, signed lower right.
Two features of her life and work make Susan Waters an appealing artist for our time and an unusual one in her own. As the wife of a man in failing health, Waters, like her close contemporary Lilly Martin Spencer, shouldered the burden of providing for her family and competing successfully in a man's profession. And although she never received formal training, she was able to learn by experimentation. Her subject matter expanded and her style continually changed, becoming ever more confident and sophisticated, throughout her life.

Susan Waters was born in Binghamton, New York on May 18, 1823. With her sister Amelia, Susan attended a female seminary school in Friendsville, Pennsylvania. Here she was considered a prodigy and earned her tuition by her drawings. At age seventeen, she married William Waters, a Quaker. As her husband's health prevented his working, Susan provided the family income as an itinerant portrait painter, traveling through northern Pennsylvania and New York's southern tier. As her portraits made her increasingly secure financially, however, she expanded her range of subjects to include landscapes, marines, animals and some religious subjects. Becoming more confident as a painter, she began to experiment, and her work lost some of its hard-edged flatness. Although her work never altogether lost its naïve charm, her finest pieces combine this with a superb draughtsmanship, a more careful modeling in space, and a subtle orchestration of colors. In 1866, she settled permanently in Bordentown, New Jersey. She began to gain some national recognition, and, in 1876, was invited to exhibit at the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia.

Susan Waters' work can be seen in the Addison Gallery of American Art, the Arnot Art Museum, the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, the Newark Museum, the National Gallery of Art, the Fenimore Art Museum (Cooperstown, NY), and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.


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