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Price Realized: $1,875 With Buyer's Premium Show Hammer Price
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Sale 2391 Lot 62
(ART.) Bridges, Fidelia. Small archive of letters by an important Gilded Age artist, with related art. 7 Autograph Letters Signed to friend and fellow artist Oliver Ingraham Lay, each 8 x 5 inches; condition generally strong; plus art as described below. Canaan, CT or no place, 1890 and undated
Estimate $2,000 - 3,000
Fidelia Bridges (1834-1923) was an artist who achieved commercial and critical success over a long career spanning the late 19th and early 20th centuries. She specialized in watercolors of birds and flowers, painted with careful naturalistic detail and spare Asian-inspired arrangements. Her work has been the subject of continued interest in recent decades. She was profiled at length in Notable American Women and North American Women Artists, was featured in a 1981 solo exhibition at the New Britain Museum of American Art, and is discussed in April Masten's 2008 monograph Art Work: Women Artists and Democracy in Mid-Nineteenth-Century New York.
From 1871 to 1877, she summered in Stratford, CT, where she became good friends with fellow artist Oliver Ingraham Lay (1845-1890) and his family. Lay painted the best-known portrait of Bridges, and they remained close until his untimely death. This lot features seven personal letters from Bridges to Lay. In two of the letters, Bridges discusses her art, which had suffered due to illness among her friends and family: "I believe it is ordained that I am never to do any more painting. For a brief half hour I forgot myself in it one day, but now I am in the greatest anxiety over the troubles of my dear friends in Brooklyn" (15 May). "Yesterday for the first time I began to paint, sitting out on my grassy bank under the apple-trees, but I have too much on my mind to paint well" (dated only "Wednesday night").
Accompanying these letters are six pieces of original art, also from the Lay family papers. First is an untitled pencil portrait of a woman believed to be Fidelia Bridges, signed "Oliver I. Lay." Lay's well-known portrait of Bridges was in a similar 3/4-profile pose. Laid down in a worn mat, 13 1/2 x 11 inches to sight. Np, 23 April 1877 * Also 5 small botanical paintings (two of them on conjoined leaves), unsigned but resembling the style of Fidelia Bridges. Most about 15 x 11 inches, one 12 x 9 inches, each with offsetting, and minor edge wear.
Provenance: Oliver Ingraham Lay (1845-1890) to son Wilfred Lay (1872-1955); gift from Wilfred to his brother Charles Downing Lay (1877-1956) in 1952 (letter in collection); sold by the estate of Lay's business partner Jeannette Minturn (1908-circa 1991) to the consignor. See the following lot.Price Realized (with Buyer's Premium) $1,875