Sarah W. Whitman

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Sarah de St. Prix Wyman Whitman (1842–1904) was an American artist and illustrator, stained glass designer, and author. As a member of the Board of the Harvard "Annex," she helped to found Radcliffe College.[1]

Early years[edit]

Sarah Wyman was born in Lowell, Massachusetts in 1842 to banker William Wyman and Sarah Amanda Treat. She had one brother, Charles (1845-1911), who suffered from mental illness and was institutionalized in about 1882. By her third birthday, the family moved her to Baltimore, Maryland, in the aftermath of her father's involvement in a bank scandal;[2] she spent her early childhood there with her wealthy Wyman relatives. When she turned 11, in 1853, she moved back to Lowell, where she was educated by tutors.[3][4] At the age of 24, she married Henry Whitman, a prosperous wool merchant, and moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts. Subsequently, the Whitmans maintained a lively salon in a spacious townhouse on the crest of Beacon Hill in Boston.[5] They summered on the Beverly Farms, an exclusive section of Boston's North Shore.

Whitman began her artistic training at the age of 26 in Boston with William Morris Hunt from 1869-1871; then in 1877 went to Paris for a year to study with Thomas Couture at Villiers-le-Bel. Within a decade, Whitman was well established, designing book covers and book illustrations and stained glass windows, and had her own studio, the Lily Glass Works, at 184 Boylston Street, Boston[6] She traveled widely, exhibiting at the National Academy of Design, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and the Columbian Exposition in Chicago.

Stained glass design[edit]

In the 1890s Whitman focused on stained glass, and became one of the leading designers of stained glass windows. Her work includes two windows in Memorial Hall, Harvard that were placed beside three windows executed by Tiffany. Other stained glass windows are in the Schlesinger Library at the Radcliffe Institute (formerly Radcliffe College), and Trinity Church in Boston.

Notable stained glass commissions:

Book illustrations & graphic design of book covers[edit]

In the course of 20 years, Whitman worked with many authors designing the illustrations and covers of over 200 books,[8] with authors such as;

In her 1894 book "Women Illustrators", Author Alice Cordelia Morse says;

Mrs. Sarah W. Whitman of Boston and Margaret N. Armstrong have taken a firm hold on the publishers, and won recognition from the public, by their appropriate, tasteful, well-studied book decoration.


According to the August 7, 1901, New York Times article called "Art Awards at Buffalo", Sarah Wyman Whitman was honored with a Bronze Medal for her submitted work in the Pan-American Exposition: 'Paintings in oil, water color, pastel, and other recognized mediums; Miniatures, cartoons' category. Artists such as; Edwin Austin Abbey, John White Alexander and James Whistler took Gold in the competition.

Whitman's notable paintings include:

  • "Afternoon on the Essex River"
  • portrait "Evelyn" (1896)[11]


Among Whitman's other talents was writing; she authored:

  • "The Making of Pictures: Twelve Short Talks with Young People" (1886) [12]
  • "Robert Browning in his Relation to the Art of Painting"

Later years[edit]

In her later years, Whitman lived with her sister Mary Rice in South Berwick, Maine, near her close friend, Sarah Orne Jewett. Sarah Wyman Whitman died in June 1904, at the age of 62.

Before her own death, her friend and business partner finished a literary project called "Letters of Sarah Wyman Whitman" published in 1907, three years after Whitman's passing.[1]


Many of Sarah Whitman's papers are housed at the Houghton Library's Special Collections at Harvard University in Cambridge, MA.[13]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g "Illustrations from the first edition of Strangers and Wayfarers". The Sarah Orne Jewett Text Project. Coe College. Retrieved 2010-04-22. 
  2. ^ "Old-Time New England" Spring/Summer 1999
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ "Stained Glass Pragmatism" by Francis G. Hutchins, January 2009
  6. ^ "Annual New Gallery exhibition of contemporary American art, 1st Edition" (Nov. 21 – Dec. 18, 1900)
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h "LETTERS: Sarah Wyman Whitman". The Sarah Orne Jewett Text Project. Coe College. Retrieved 2010-04-22. 
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^ a b c d e f "Sarah (de St. Prix) Wyman Whitman (1842–1904)". U.S. Women Painters: 1893 Exposition. November 6, 2008. Retrieved 2010-04-22. 
  12. ^
  13. ^

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