Ella Sophonisba Hergesheimer

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Ella Sophonisba Hergesheimer
Self-portrait (1931)
BornJanuary 7, 1873
DiedJune 24, 1943 (1943-06-25) (aged 70)
EducationPhiladelphia School of Design for Women, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Shinnecock Hills Summer School of Art
Known forPainting

Ella Sophonisba Hergesheimer (January 7, 1873 – June 24, 1943) was an American illustrator, painter, and printmaker known for her portrayals of Tennessee society women and their children. As a printmaker, she pioneered the white-line woodcut.[1]

Early life[edit]

Portrait of Matthew Fontaine Maury, hanging in Maury Hall at the United States Naval Academy. Donated to the Academy in 1923

Hergesheimer was born in Allentown, Pennsylvania on January 7, 1873. Her parents were Charles P. Hergesheimer and Ellamanda Ritter Hergesheimer.[2][3] She was encouraged to create art in her childhood.[4]

Hergesheimer was the great-great granddaughter of Philadelphia artist Charles Willson Peale, who named one of his daughters Sophonisba after the Italian artist, Sofonisba Anguissola. Hergesheimer chose to use Sophonisba as her first name.[4]


She studied at the Philadelphia School of Design for Women for two years,[2] and then went on to study at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts for four years.[2] At the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, she studied with Cecilia Beaux, Hugh Breckenridge, and William Merritt Chase.[5] She was considered by Chase to be one of his finest students, and spent the summer of 1900 studying at Chase's Shinnecock Hills Summer School of Art on Long Island.[5] As a senior at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, she was judged the best pupil in her class and was awarded the Cresson Traveling Scholarship.[2][6]

This allowed her to study abroad in Europe for three years, where she trained at the Académie Colarossi and exhibited at the Paris Salon.[2] She is listed among the students of Blanche Lazzell, who was known for her white-line color woodcuts. [7]


As a result of having her work including in a 1905 traveling exhibition organized by the Nashville Art Association, she received a commission in 1907 to paint the portrait of Holland Nimmons McTyeire, the Methodist bishop who convinced Cornelius Vanderbilt to endow Vanderbilt University.[5] To work on the commission, she relocated to Nashville, Tennessee, where she remained the rest of her life - first occupying a studio on Church Street, and later one at Eighth Avenue and Broadway.[5] She also conducted art classes in Bowling Green, Kentucky, where her circle of friends included fellow artists Frances Fowler, Sarah Peyton, and Wickliffe Covington.[2] She also maintained a lifelong friendship with landscape painter Orlando Gray Wales,[1] who also was raised in Allentown and also studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.

Hergesheimer's most notable portraits are those of Speaker of the House Joseph W. Byrns, Sr., which hangs in the United States Capitol building, and of Commodore Matthew Fontaine Maury, which hangs in Maury Hall at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.[5]


Hergesheimer died on June 24, 1943 in Davidson, Tennessee.[3]


  • Gold medal, Appalachian Exposition (1910)[5]
  • Gold medal, Tennessee State Exposition (1926)[4]

Major exhibitions[edit]

Colleagues and affiliations[edit]

  • American Artists Professional League
  • American Federation of Arts
  • National Arts Club
  • New Orleans Art Association
  • Salons of America
  • Society of Independent Artists
  • Southern States Art League
  • Washington, D.C. Watercolor Club


Some of the major collectors of Hergesheimer's work are:[8]


  1. ^ a b Outwater, Myra Yellin (February 11, 2001). "Easton Show Pulls Gems From Area Art Collections". The Morning Call. pp. F.10.
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Kentucky Women Artists, 1850-1970: Ella Sophonisba Hergesheimer". Archived from the original on 16 May 2008. Retrieved 16 November 2008.
  3. ^ a b Ella Sophonisba Hergesheimer. Death June 24, 1943. Tennessee Deaths and Burials, 1874–1955.
  4. ^ a b c Ella Sophonisba Hergesheimer. Johnson Collection. Retrieved August 20, 2014.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Walker, Celia. "Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture: Ella Sophonisba Hergesheimer". Retrieved 16 November 2008.[permanent dead link]
  6. ^ a b "University of Delaware: Ella Sophonisba Hergesheimer Collection". Archived from the original on September 7, 2008. Retrieved 16 November 2008.
  7. ^ Doll, Susan M. (2004), "Blanche Lazzell Biography", Blanche Lazzell: The Life and Work of an American Modernist, Morgantown: West Virginia University Press ISBN 0-937058-84-X
  8. ^ Ella Sophonisba Hergesheimer. UD Library Collections. University of Delaware. Retrieved August 20, 2014.

Further reading[edit]

  • Burton, Vincent. "Some Portraits by Ella S. Hergesheimer." International Studio 37 (March 1909): 32-33.
  • Kelly, James C. "Ella Sophonisba Hergesheimer 1873-1943." Tennessee Historical Quarterly 44 (Summer 1985): 112-13.
  • Knowles, Susan. "Ella Sophonisba Hergesheimer (1873-1943)." Distinctive Women of Nashville. Nashville: Tennessee Historical Society, 1985.

External links[edit]

Media related to Ella Sophonisba Hergesheimer at Wikimedia Commons