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[AC] Mead Art Museum at Amherst College; [HC] Hampshire College Art Gallery;
[HD] Historic Deerfield; [MH] Mount Holyoke College Art Museum; [MH SK] The Joseph Allen Skinner Museum at Mount Holyoke College; [SC] Smith College Museum of Art; [UM] University Museum of Contemporary Art at UMASS Amherst


Maker(s):Spencer, Lilly Martin
Culture:American (1822 - 1902)
Title:Reading the Legend
Date Made:1852
Materials:oil on canvas
Place Made:United States
Measurements:stretcher: 50 3/8 x 38 in.; 127.9525 x 96.52 cm
Narrative Inscription:  signed and dated at lower left: Lilly M. Spencer / Artist / 1852
Accession Number:  SC 1954.69
Credit Line:Gift of Adeline Flint Wing, class of 1898 and Caroline Roberta Wing, class of 1896

Currently on view

landscape; outside; man; woman; reading/reading material; vegetation

Label Text:
The extraordinary career of Lilly Martin Spencer stands alone in mid-nineteenth-century America. She was the only woman to achieve professional success as a painter in the art capital of New York. Her career was the primary means of support for her husband and eight children.

Reading the Legend, one of her most ambitious paintings, is a romantic view of a young couple contemplating the picturesque ruins of Ireland’s Blarney Castle. The woman is the focal point of the composition, gazing up at the castle while listening to the story read aloud by her companion. By posing the man with his back to the viewer, Spencer depicts the woman’s experience of the tale, offering a rare alternative to the male point of view that was more typical at this time.

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