Marian MacDowell

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Marian with her husband Edward MacDowell, 1886

Marian MacDowell (maiden name Marian Griswold Nevins) (November 22, 1857 – August 23, 1956) was a pianist, and in 1907 the founder and developer of the MacDowell Colony, an art colony in Peterborough, New Hampshire, United States. Her leadership of the Colony through two world wars, the Great Depression and other challenges created one of the foremost art institutions in the United States, which cultivated the work of generations.

Life and education[edit]

Marian Griswold Nevins was born in New York City, the third of five children born to David H. Nevins, a Wall Street banker, and his wife, Cornelia L. Perkins. When she was eight, her mother died in childbirth. Her aunt Caroline Perkins of South Carolina was a talented musician who came to New York to teach piano. She recognized her niece's gifts and encouraged them. As Marian grew older, she realized she needed to study in Europe, a basis for being taken seriously as a performer or artist. With a chaperone, she left for Frankfurt in 1880 intending to study with Clara Schumann at the Hoch Conservatory. Finding that Clara Schumann was away, Nevins asked for advice in getting another teacher and was referred to Edward MacDowell, a young American composer. After working together for several years, they decided to marry. Marian Nevins married MacDowell on July 24, 1884. From the beginning she had great faith in his talent and wanted him to devote himself to composing. They had one child who was stillborn.[1]

Career[edit]

During their life together, Marian MacDowell realized how having a quiet room would support her husband's work. In 1896 she bought Hillcrest, a farm in Peterborough, New Hampshire, for their summer residence. Her husband appreciated how artists learned and were stimulated by interacting with people from other disciplines and here they had plans of creating a place where artists could come together.[according to whom?]

In 1904 Edward MacDowell began to show evidence of a nervous disorder or dementia that ended his composing and teaching career. He lost virtually all mental capacity. Marian cared for him to the end of his life in 1908, in his last years with the help of a nurse Anna Baetz. After Edward's death, Baetz stayed with Marian MacDowell and helped with the Colony.[2]

In 1907 Marian MacDowell initiated her and Edward's plan for an artists' colony, founding a residential institution in Peterborough, New Hampshire where artists could stay for limited periods of time to work. She transferred the deed of property for Hillcrest Farm to the Edward MacDowell Association to initiate the colony. She had a studio built there, and that summer invited the first artists: Helen Mears, a sculptor, and her sister Mary Mears, a writer. The latter published an article about the colony in the July 1909 issue of The Craftsman. Marian MacDowell conceived of ways to support both artists' need for solitude and for interaction.[3]

To raise funds for the Colony's support and endowment, MacDowell began lecturing to women's clubs and musical groups. Encouraged at one session, she took up her performing career again at the age of fifty and became the foremost interpreter of MacDowell's music. "For approximately the next twenty-five years, traveled throughout the United States and Canada, giving between 400 to 500 concerts to raise money for the colony."[4]

She frequently performed concerts for women's music clubs, such as the MacDowell clubs, named after Edward MacDowell. She inspired the formation of some of the MacDowell clubs and united ones that previously existed. These clubs were significant donors to the Colony and, in turn, brought the arts to their local communities.[5] Marian MacDowell maintained close relationships with many of these clubs throughout her life, in addition to umbrella organizations such as the National Federation of Music Clubs and professional music sororoties: Sigma Alpha Iota, Delta Omicron, Phi Beta, and Alpha Chi Omega. She said women's groups raised far more money for the Colony than did men's fraternities.[6]

Through her unceasing efforts to support both female and male artists in all disciplines, Marian MacDowell became a leading figure for the arts in the United States. The colony supported generations of artists in her lifetime, whose work expressed and contributed to American life. It continues to do so.[according to whom?]

Legacy and honors[edit]

Marian MacDowell was awarded honorary degrees from numerous academic, artistic and media institutions:[7]

Other awards included:

Papers of the Edward and Marian MacDowell Collection and the MacDowell Colony are held by the Library of Congress.

Sources[edit]

References and notes[edit]

  1. ^ Robin Rausch, "The House That Marian Built: The MacDowell Colony", American Memory, Library of Congress
  2. ^ Robin Rausch, "The House That Marian Built: The MacDowell Colony", American Memory, Library of Congress
  3. ^ Robin Rausch, "The House That Marian Built: The MacDowell Colony", American Memory, Library of Congress
  4. ^ Robin Rausch, "The House That Marian Built: The MacDowell Colony", American Memory, Library of Congress
  5. ^ See Elizabeth Yackley, Marian MacDowell and the MacDowell Clubs, (M.A. Thesis, University of Maryland, College Park, 2008.
  6. ^ Robin Rausch, "The House That Marian Built: The MacDowell Colony", American Memory, Library of Congress
  7. ^ Robin Rausch, "The House That Marian Built: The MacDowell Colony", American Memory, Library of Congress

External links[edit]