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“In Her First Youth”

In Her First Youth, Lydia F. Emmet (American, 1866-1952), 1892, Pastel on paper, Bequest of Anna Gay McClung, in memory of her husband Charles J. McClung, 1957.2.5.


Emmet was among the first professional female portraitists in the US of her time, known for her portraits of children from prominent families. Traditionally 19th century female artists painted children, as it was one of the few subjects accessible to them–partly because critics considered women to have an intrinsic understanding of children. Though she painted the wealthy, Emmet wanted the public to regard her pieces as works of art and not simply depictions of who they were, so she often gave them generalized titles as here. She later said she regretted her success with child portraits because it diminished time for the adult sitters she considered more challenging. Nevertheless, she had great success with her sentimental and expressive paintings.